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How does monkeypox spread? Can virus be caught from surfaces, how do you get it - UKHSA guidance explained

You should contact a sexual health clinic if you have a rash with blisters and you’ve been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox

Monkeypox cases are continuing to increase across the UK, with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) issuing guidance for those who have been in close contact with someone who has or might have monkeypox.

But can monkeypox be caught from surfaces?

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Can monkeypox be caught from surfaces?

Here’s what you need to know.

How is monkeypox spread and caught?

Monkeypox can be spread through close, even intimate, contact and can be transmitted through broken skin or via mouth and eyes after contact with pus from open spots - directly or from surfaces - said Dr Mike Skinner, reader in virology at Imperial College London.

It can also be spread by inhaling dust from dried scabs after they are shed into bedding and clothing, and inhalation of droplets spread from the mouth/nose - but only over a very short distance, unlike the aerosol spread of Covid.

Martin Michaelis, professor of molecular medicine at the University of Kent, also noted that monkeypox is not as contagious as airborne diseases like the measles or Covid-19, but that generally, the risk of infection via contaminated surfaces, for example doorknobs, seems to be higher for monkeypox than for Covid.

He said that thorough hygiene measures and hand washing, as well as avoiding close contact with potential monkeypox patients, should normally be sufficient to prevent infection and that you are unlikely to become infected when you are in the same room with a person infected with monkeypox if there is no direct contact.

“Medical staff will use PPE (personal protective equipment). The vast majority of us will not come into close contact with infected individuals,” added Dr Skinner.

How can an outbreak of monkeypox be stopped?

Dr Skinner said contact tracing by public health authorities after recognition, isolation and confirmation of possible and probable monkeypox cases, vigilance of those who are possible contacts and willingness of cases to contact authorities if symptoms arise should help stop the current outbreak.

Prof Michaelis added that monkeypox patients are typically only infectious, when they have symptoms so there should be no or very limited asymptomatic spread, and it’s also possible to trace the contacts of monkeypox patients and to isolate and vaccinate them.

The smallpox vaccine is effective against monkeypox and can be used to contain the current outbreak.

Monkeypox cases in the UK are continuing to rise

What is the current UKHSA guidance?

The UKHSA said: “Anyone can get monkeypox, particularly if you have had close contact, including sexual contact, with an individual with symptoms. People who are gay or bisexual and men who have sex with men remain disproportionately affected.”

The current advice is that you should contact a sexual health clinic if you have a rash with blisters and you’ve been either:

  • in close contact, including sexual contact, with someone who has or might have monkeypox (even if they’ve not been tested yet) in the past three weeks
  • to West or Central Africa in the past three weeks