London, June 8 (IANS) While designating monkeypox as a notifiable disease, UK Health officials have upgraded the disease severity of monkeypox with that of leprosy and plague.
According to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), the country has detected 321 cases of monkeypox virus till June 7 – with 305 confirmed cases in England, 11 in Scotland, 2 in Northern Ireland, and 3 in Wales.
The agency laid a legislation, which makes monkeypox a notifiable infectious disease under the Health Protection (Notification) Regulations 2010 from June 8.
This means all doctors in England are required to notify their local council or local Health Protection Team (HPT) if they suspect a patient has monkeypox. Laboratories must also notify the UKHSA if the monkeypox virus is identified in a laboratory sample, the agency said.
“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 UKHSA, in a statement.
“It also supports us with the swift collection and analysis of data which enables us to detect possible outbreaks of the disease and trace close contacts rapidly, whilst offering vaccinations where appropriate to limit onward transmission,” Shepherd added.
The move elevates monkeypox to the same legal status as 33 other diseases – including leprosy, malaria, rabies, plague and yellow fever – which are designated as “notifiable” under the UK’s health protection regulations.
Covid-19 was also made a notifiable disease on March 5 2020, before the UK went into lockdown. But Dr Meaghan Kall, an epidemiologist at the UKHSA, said the latest move has “no direct link to (disease control) measures” and should not be interpreted as a precursor to coronavirus-like restrictions, the Telegraph reported.
“It just means that clinicians and laboratories have a statutory requirement to report cases,” she told The Telegraph. “We need to monitor cases for surveillance and (epidemiological) purposes.”
The change also means all overseas visitors who are diagnosed or treated for monkeypox will be exempt from charges.
“This is important as the cost to access testing and treatment from the NHS can be a huge barrier and stop people from coming forward – increasing risk of transmission,” Dr Kall added.