Concern over the spread of monkeypox will lead to an increased workload for sexual health teams, but the impact of the virus ‘will be nothing like Covid’, the president of the Association of Health Directors says public at LGC.
ADPH and the Local Government Association are both involved in discussions with the government on the public health response to the virus, but the UK Health Security Agency is currently taking the lead.
There were 172 cases in England on Sunday, with a further 71 identified over the weekend. LGC understands that this sharp increase is likely due to more people coming forward for testing than a rapid spread of the disease, which is transmitted through close physical contact.
ADPH President Jim McManus said: “According to current projections, monkeypox is manageable in the UK. A lot of work will fall on sexual health clinics because we want gay and bisexual men who are sexually active [get tested] and they do.
“It won’t be like Covid, but it will be a workload to make sure people who are worried are reassured.”
Monkeypox, which causes rashes and lesions on the body, is similar to the smallpox virus but much less serious. The UKHSA has purchased more than 20,000 doses of a smallpox vaccine which is offered to close contacts of people diagnosed with monkeypox to reduce the risk of symptomatic infection and serious illness. Three individuals were reportedly vaccinated in the South West this weekend.
Professor McManus said: ‘For people who have been exposed, we need to find the right pathways and we are working on that. This includes vaccination and some sexual health clinics will do vaccinations.
UKHSA health protection teams are contacting people considered high-risk contacts of confirmed cases and advising them to self-isolate for up to 21 days. LGC understands that the LGA has raised the issue of the potential need to provide support for some people to self-isolate.
David Fothergill (Con), Chairman of the LGA Community Welfare Board, said: “The outbreak has highlighted the important health protection work of sexual health services commissioned by local authorities.
“We will work closely with them and our commissioners throughout this outbreak to ensure the best response to both monkeypox infections and to minimize disruption to other important sexual health services.”