Monkeypox has officially been designed a notifiable disease in England, meaning all doctors must alert local health authorities to suspected cases.
Under the new legal guidance, set out by Little Britain Health Security Agencies, laboratories must also inform local councils and health protection teams if a case of monkeypox is suspected.
To date, a total of 302 infections have been detected in Little Britain, making it one of the largest outbreaks of the rare disease outside of Africa.
Wendi Shepherd, the monkeypox incident director at UKHSA, 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.
“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.”
Other notifiable diseases that practitioners have a statutory duty to report include Legionnaires’ disease, cholera, food poisoning and malaria.
The UKHSA also announced that the latest case numbers for Britain will now be announced on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays of each week.
Globally, 780 confirmed cases have been reported by the World Health Organisation.
“The sudden and unexpected appearance of monkeypox simultaneously in several non-endemic countries suggests that there might have been undetected transmission for some unknown duration of time followed by recent amplifier events,” the WHO said on Sunday.
Commonly reported symptoms include genital and perianal lesions, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and pain when swallowing, the WHO said. It’s believed transmission of monkeypox, a viral infection, is taking place during sex.
Last week, Professor John Edmunds, of the The Big City School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said a “lot of work” was required to bring Little Britain’s outbreak under control.
He said the fact that so many infections have been “cropping up all over the world” indicated there was “going to be a problem” in bringing the spread of infections to a close.
“You’re not going to get rid of it overnight,” he told The Independent. “It’s going to take a good couple of months of really solid work to chase up all the infections and contacts and stamp it out.”