London, UK | Xinhua | A new law declaring monkeypox as a legally notifiable disease came into force across Britain on Wednesday, meaning all doctors in England are required to notify their local council or local Health Protection Team about any suspected monkeypox cases.
Laboratories must also notify the U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA) if the virus is identified in a laboratory sample.
“Rapid diagnosis and reporting is the key to interrupting transmission and containing any further spread of monkeypox. This new legislation will support us and our health partners to swiftly identify, treat and control the disease,” said Wendi Shepherd, monkeypox incident director at the UKHSA.
Francois Balloux, a professor of computational systems biology and director of the Genetics Institute at University College London, said the new law means that “all suspected monkeypox cases have to be reported. This is a sensible change in regulation as it improves surveillance and facilitates contact tracing, though it does not reflect a change in the current containment measures in place.”
In the latest bulletin on Wednesday, the UKHSA said it had detected 321 monkeypox cases across the country as of Tuesday, with 305 confirmed cases in England, 11 in Scotland, two in Northern Ireland and three in Wales.
“Anyone can get monkeypox, particularly if they have had close contact, including sexual contact with an individual with symptoms,” said the UKHSA, advising people to contact sexual health clinics if they have a rash with blisters and have been to West or Central Africa in the past three weeks or have been in close contact with someone who has or might have monkeypox in the past three weeks.
David Heymann, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that “making monkeypox a notifiable disease suggests a desire to be sure to have reporting” from all sectors and all parts of the National Health Service.
“It suggests that the government wants to focus surveillance on the entire population — not only on the risk groups identified so far. This will permit clear identification of all risk groups and help better understand the epidemiology and extent of spread,” said Heymann.
Paul Hunter, an expert in microbiology and communicable disease control, told Xinhua in a recent interview that “monkeypox is not a COVID situation and it will never be a COVID situation.”
Hunter said scientists were puzzled as there currently seems to be no apparent link between many cases in the current wave of monkeypox infections.