Smallpox monkey patients will be told to keep their distance from family pets in an official guide published later this week.
The advice of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will warn of the potential risk of human-to-animal transmission.
European health officials have already expressed concern that animals on the continent could become permanent reservoirs of disease if it is allowed to make the leap.
Advice from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will warn of potential risk of human-to-animal transmission for monkeypox
This would increase the likelihood of it becoming endemic in Europe.
Now Defra of the UK is developing guidelines to limit the risk of monkeypox patients infecting similar cats, dogs and rabbits.
There are also fears that infected patients could contaminate their pet’s skin and that the disease will be transmitted to others in their household.
Seven more cases of the virus have been identified in England, taking the UK as a whole from May 7 to 78, the UK Health Security Agency said yesterday.
Justine Shotton, president of the British Veterinary Association, said she believes the risk of infecting pets is low but “supports a cautious approach”.
“It would be a wise decision to keep your distance from a pet while in quarantine,” she said.
‘If I were diagnosed with monkeypox, I would do my best to limit contact, such as asking a friend or relative to take care of it.’
She added: “There are currently no signs of transmission between humans and cats and dogs, but we know that rabbits and rodents are sensitive.
‘If you have concerns about the health of your pets – if they have a fever, breathing problems, poor appetite or lethargy – talk to a veterinarian.
‘It’ll probably be something other than monkeypox but it’s worth checking out.’
The government has ordered an additional 20,000 doses of smallpox vaccine, which is being used to treat infected people and their close contacts.
The UK currently has 5,000 doses of Imvanex, although 1,000 have already been distributed for use.
Officials are confident that the virus will not grow exponentially like Covid, although it is understood they are planning an online dashboard that tracks case numbers that have caused controversy during the coronavirus pandemic.
People with unusual eruptions or injuries, especially if they had a new sexual partner, were encouraged to contact NHS 111 or their local sex clinic.
But health officials stressed that people should call ahead before participating in person.
Despite the increase in cases, the UKHSA said the risk to the UK population “remains low”.
The health organization said a “remarkable proportion of the cases” identified were among people who are gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men.
These people were especially encouraged to be aware of symptoms, especially if they had a new sexual partner recently.
Dr Susan Hopkins, the UKHSA’s chief medical adviser, said: “We continue to rapidly detect new monkeypox through our extensive surveillance network and NHS services.
“If anyone suspects that they may have rashes or injuries on any part of their body, especially if they have recently had a new sexual partner, they should limit their contact with others and contact NHS 111 or their local sex service as soon as possible – although please call in advance before attending in person. ‘
UKHSA teams tracked risky contacts of those with a confirmed case and advise contacts to isolate for 21 days.
It also offers the smallpox vaccine to close contacts to reduce their risk of symptoms and severe illness.