Monkeypox ‘can spread up to FOUR DAYS before tell-tale rash shows up’
- Researchers estimate more than half of transmission occurs before symptoms
- Means infections cannot be prevented by asking people to isolate after onset
- Britain’s monkeypox outbreak has slowed down since it exploded in the summer
Monkeypox patients can spread the virus up to four days before symptoms appear, Government scientists claimed today.
UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) experts now estimate more than half of cases during the summer outbreak, which predominantly affected gay and bisexual men, occurred this way.
In the first evidence of its kind, the researchers said pre-symptomatic transmission might be much more ‘substantial’ than previously thought.
It raises ‘urgent’ questions over current strategies to contain the rash-causing virus, infectious disease specialists claimed today.
Monkeypox can spread up to four days before a tell–tale rash first appears, a UK Health Security Agency study claimed today
Britain’s monkeypox outbreak has slowed down since it exploded in the summer, with 3,701 cases recorded from May 6 to October 31 in the country
Britain’s monkeypox outbreak, which sparked warnings of another pandemic, has slowed down since it exploded in the summer. Before this year, cases were usually only spotted in West Africa.
Some 3,701 cases have been logged since May, when it started. Similar outbreaks cropped up across western Europe and the US.
While the virus can infect anyone, the overwhelming majority of cases have been in gay and bisexual men.
Cases peaked at more than 60 per day in mid-July but have been falling since, with fewer than 15 cases per day on average in early September.
Experts credit the fall to the UK’s vaccine strategy, which saw nearly 50,000 gay and bisexual men and at-risk healthcare workers jabbed.
Second doses of the smallpox vaccine started being rolled out to Brits at the highest risk from monkeypox in September.
All close contacts of monkeypox patients are told to isolate for up to 21 days.
The study, in the British Medical Journal, included 2,746 people who tested positive for monkeypox in the UK.
Patients were aged 37.8 years on average and 95 per cent were gay or bisexual men. They were found with routine surveillance and contact tracing questionnaires.
Researchers looked at the time it took from when first symptoms occurred in the first patient to when symptoms developed in a known contact.
They also looked at the incubation period — the time from exposure to the virus to the onset of symptoms.
The team found it took up to 7.8 days for symptoms to appear after a patient was first exposed.
But many contacts were infected before symptoms started to appear in the initial case.
Writing in the journal, they said: ‘Four days was the maximum time that transmission was detected before symptoms manifested.’
Independent experts described the results as ‘convincing’ and said they raise ‘urgent questions’.
Dr Boghuma Kabisen Titanji, assistant professor of medicine at Emory University in Atlanta, said: ‘What proportion of cases are asymptomatic and how much do these cases contribute to seeding new transmission chains? These are urgent questions that need answers.’
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