The UK Health Security Agency on Monday issued guidance recommending that people who test positive monkeypox abstain from sexual activity while they are symptomatic.
“People with possible, probable or confirmed monkeypox should avoid contact with other people until their lesions have healed and the scabs have dried off,” the agency said in its guidance. “Cases should also abstain from sex while symptomatic, including the period of early symptom onset, and while lesions are present.”
Monkeypox is primarily spread through prolonged skin-to-skin contact with an infectious person — not just sexual. It typically causes lesions to form on an individual’s face and body.
The agency noted that there is currently “no available evidence of monkeypox in genital excretions,” but advised that condoms still be used for eight weeks after infection as a “precaution.”
An individual who contracts monkeypox is generally considered to no longer be infectious once their skin lesions scab over and are fully healed.
As of Monday, 183 monkeypox cases have been confirmed in the U.K. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified 10 cases of monkeypox.
When monkeypox cases were first identified in Europe, health authorities observed that many cases were occurring among men who have sex with men. Experts have since speculated that the outbreaks were linked to raves in Spain and Belgium.
Monkeypox can also be spread through contact with an infectious individual’s clothing or bedsheets. Standard cleaning methods such as handwashing and washing linens with detergent in a washing machine reduces the risk of transmission.
People in the same household as someone infected with monkeypox are also at a higher risk of contracting the pathogen. Infections usually last between two and four weeks and the mortality rate for the disease is very low.
Vaccines and antivirals believed to be effective against monkeypox have been mobilized in numerous countries like the U.S., with orders placed for more antivirals to be produced.
Ruth Milton, senior medical advisor and monkeypox strategic response director for the British health agency, stressed that the risk monkeypox poss to the U.K. public still remains low.