People with monkeypox symptoms should stop having sex, health officials have said.
The fresh guidance has been issued by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in a bid to halt the spread of the virus, after 71 more cases were detected in England.
A total of 179 cases have now been confirmed in the UK since 7 May, with 172 in England, four in Scotland, two in Northern Ireland and one in Wales.
What is the new guidance?
The new advice urges anyone with monkeypox to avoid close contact with others until their lesions have healed and any scabs have dried off.
Health chiefs said that people should avoid having sex from the first signs of symptoms and should also use condoms for eight weeks after infection.
Anyone who has been in contact with someone with the disease should also be risk assessed and may be told to isolate for 21 days if necessary.
The guidance, which was updated on Monday, also says that people with suspected or confirmed monkeypox who need to travel to seek care should make sure any lesions are covered by clothing, wear a face covering and avoid public transport where possible.
The UKHSA said that while the risk to the UK population remains low, people should be alert to any new rashes or lesions, which would appear like spots, ulcers or blisters, on any part of their body.
The advice applies to everyone, but the agency said the majority of cases identified so far have been among men who are gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men.
As such, these groups in particular are urged to be aware of the symptoms, particularly if they have recently had a new sexual partner.
People are being urged to call NHS 111 or a sexual health centre immediately if they have a rash with blisters and either have been in close contact with someone who has or might have monkeypox in the past three weeks.
Those with symptoms are also being asked to call 111 if they have been to west or central Africa in the past three weeks or are a man who has sex with men.
Dr Ruth Milton, senior medical adviser and monkeypox strategic response director at UKHSA, said: “This new monkeypox guidance sets out important measures for healthcare professionals and the public for managing the disease including how to safely isolate at home and reduce the risk to others.
“The highest risk of transmission is through direct contact with someone with monkeypox.
“The risk to the UK population remains low and anyone with unusual rashes or lesions on any part of their body should immediately contact NHS 111 or their local sexual health service.”
What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
Monkeypox can take between five and 21 days for the first symptoms to appear, and will typically include:
- a high temperature
- a headache
- muscle aches
- swollen glands
- shivering (chills)
A rash usually appears between one and five days after the first symptoms, and will typically begin on the face before spreading to other parts of the body.
The rash is sometimes confused with chickenpox as it starts as raised spots, which turn into small blisters filled with fluid. These blisters eventually form scabs which later drop off and symptoms should clear up within two to four weeks.
The disease, first found in monkeys, can be transmitted from person to person through close physical contact, including sexual intercourse, and is caused by the monkeypox virus.
Symptoms are generally mild and the illness is spread through close contact with someone already infected. Most people will recover within a few weeks.