May 27, 2022 - Health

UK health agency: People with monkeypox symptoms should avoid contact with pets

Note: Monkeypox is more common and locally transmitted in west and central Africa; Data: WHO, Axios reporting; Map: Axios Visuals

People with monkeypox symptoms may want to avoid contact with their pets for three weeks to avoid infecting animals, the U.K. Health Security Agency said Friday.

Why it matters: UKHSA says the spread of monkeypox in the U.K. may put pet rodents — such as gerbils, hamsters or rodents — at risk of the virus.

"The worry is the virus could get into domestic animals and essentially ping-pong between them and humans," Lawrence Young, a virologist at the University of Warwick, told BBC News.

What they're saying: "The risk posed is therefore to the non-infected human contacts or in-contact peridomestic or wild rodents," UKHSA said.

  • Other mammal pets, like cats and dogs, should be kept in isolation with regular check ups with veterinarians to make sure symptoms don't develop, the agency added.

Yes, but: U.K. health officials said the risk of passing monkeypox to a pet is low, per The Guardian. In fact, the risk may be limited to certain species, like rodents.

  • “No cases of monkeypox have ever been suspected or reported in pets in the UK and the risk remains low,” Christine Middlemiss, the U.K.'s chief veterinary officer, told The Guardian.

Be smart: There aren't many monkeypox cases globally and transmission risk remains low, Axios' Eileen Drage O'Reilly reports. There have been nine U.S. cases confirmed so far.

  • "People are seeing these cases every day pop up on multiple continents, and this feels very much like the early days of COVID," Jennifer Nuzzo, director of the Pandemic Center at Brown University's School of Public Health, told Axios.
  • But, "what made COVID so incredibly challenging is the fact that people could be infected and have no knowledge of it and then go on to spread it to others — there's much less of a chance it will happen with this virus," Nuzzo added.

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