Posed by models

More facts are emerging around the transmission of monkeypox. British researchers revealed yesterday the virus can be spread for up to four days before symptoms appear.

The UK is one of the countries worst hit by this summer’s monkeypox outbreak. Gay and bisexual men make up over 90% of cases. It was known close contact with anyone infected can pass on the virus. This is especially true if they have the infection’s classic lesions or spots.

However, yesterday, UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) scientists said “considerable” transmission can occur in the days just before symptoms emerge. It’s the first time evidence of this has emerged. The scientists determined this through extensive tracing of contacts of those infected.

Their study found that more than half (53%) of transmission occurs in the pre-symptomatic phase. The research included 2,746 people who tested positive for monkeypox in the UK between May 6 and August 1. The study appeared in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Related: More gay men can finally get the monkeypox vaccine after CDC updates its advice

Dr. Nachi Arunachalam, monkeypox incident director at the UK Health Security Agency, said: “This modeling suggests there may be some transmission of monkeypox when people are pre-symptomatic or before they recognize they have symptoms, but there is still more work needed to understand pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic infections and what that might mean for future policies and management of the monkeypox outbreak.

“Whilst we continue to see fewer cases reported in the UK, it remains vital people are alert to the risk monkeypox poses and take action to protect themselves and others.

“Vaccination plays a crucial role in this so I would encourage those at highest risk to come forward and get your first dose.”

Around 45,000 people in the UK have received the first dose of the smallpox vaccine. It’s known to also be effective against monkeypox. Those people are now beginning to receive invitations to get a second dose.

According to the CDC, around 78,000 people have been diagnosed with the disease during the 2022 outbreak, with 28,500 in the US. There have been eight reported deaths in the US linked to the infection.

What is monkeypox

Monkeypox is caused by a virus similar to smallpox. Early symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.

It will often be accompanied by a chickenpox-like rash, with lesions tending to eventually scab over and fall off.

Monkeypox lesions
Monkeypox lesions (Photo: UK Health Security Agency)

It’s usually a mild, self-limiting illness, and most people will recover within weeks. However, the deadliest variant of the virus can be fatal.

The form of the virus currently circulating is milder than previous outbreaks, with a fatality rate of less than 1 percent.

Anyone who feels unwell and notices an unusual rash should seek medical help.

Related: Half of gay and bi men have reduced their sexual activity because of monkeypox

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