People infected with the monkeypox virus should isolate themselves at home and avoid close contact with anyone else, according to advice issued on Monday by the UK’s health security agency (UKHSA) as an attempt to slow the spread of the viral disease in the country.

Outside of Africa, where the virus is endemic, over 300 confirmed and suspected cases of monkeypox were reported in May. The typically mild illness, which can manifest as flu and pus-filled lesions on the skin, is spread through close contact. 

According to the UKHSA, an additional 71 cases of monkeypox have been identified in England, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the United Kingdom to 179 since early May.

Scientists are investigating what is causing the unusual rise in cases many of which are unrelated to travel.  According to the UKHSA, community transmission is occurring in the UK, and infected persons should avoid close contact with everyone until their skin lesions have fully recovered.

Infected people can reduce the risk of transmission by using standard cleaning and disinfection methods, as well as washing their own clothing and bed linen in a washing machine with detergent, according to the CDC.

According to the agency, infected people should also avoid having sex when the symptoms appear. While there is no proof of monkeypox viral spreading through genital excretions at this time, persons infected with this virus are instructed to use condoms as a precaution for 8 weeks after the infection.

According to Ruth Milton, senior medical advisor and monkeypox strategic response director at UKHSA, the maximum risk of transmission of the disease is through close contact with somebody who has monkeypox, but the risk level for UK citizens remains low.

Over 20,000 doses of a smallpox vaccine manufactured by Bavarian Nordic BAVA.CO have been obtained by the agency, and the vaccine is being distributed to close connections of the cases. The viruses that cause monkeypox and smallpox are genetically related.

Managing the risk

The UKHSA advised healthcare workers dealing with confirmed and suspected cases to wear personal protective equipment such as gowns, eye protection, and gloves.

Healthcare workers who care for confirmed monkeypox patients and sexual health workers who investigate suspected cases will also receive the vaccine. Patients should be managed in a single room with separate toilet facilities in settings such as adult social care, prisons, and homeless shelters.

The chances of a case infecting a pet are low, according to the agency.

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