Health

Monkeypox: New guidance recommends condoms for 12 weeks after infection

Lily Wakefield July 16, 2022
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Monkeypox lesions

Monkeypox lesions. (UKHSA)

As research develops, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has recommended using condoms for 12 weeks after recovering from monkeypox.

Monkeypox is not considered a sexually transmitted disease, but research released this week has shown that monkeypox DNA can be detected in bodily fluids like semen and saliva.

Aida Peiró-Mestres, the new study’s author, told Contagion Live: “A couple of previous studies had already shown occasional presence of viral DNA in some samples and in some patients, but here we show that viral DNA is frequently present in various biological fluids, particularly saliva, during the acute phase of the disease, and up to 16 days after the onset of symptoms in one patient.”

Although it remains unclear whether monkeypox can actually be sexually transmitted, the UKHSA is erring on the side of caution as the science develops, and is now recommending the use of condoms after recovery from the virus. 

The agency recommends self-isolating at home until your lesions have scabbed over and the scabs have fallen off, no new lesions have appeared for 48 hours, and your temperature has remained normal for 72 hours.

During this time, sexual activity is discouraged to avoid passing the virus to a partner.

But the UKHSA has now added further advice: “It is not known how long monkeypox virus remains present in semen and other genital excretions.

“If you wish to resume sexual activity after your self-isolation has ended, you should use a condom for 12 weeks after your rash has scabbed over and scabs have fallen off. This is a precaution to reduce the risk of spreading infection to your partner.”

The agency said that guidance on safe sex would be updated “as further information is available”.

As of 14 July, there were 1,856 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the UK, with 1,778 of these located in England.

Some sexual health clinics are offering the smallpox vaccine Imvanex to those at high risk of contracting monkeypox, which around 85 per cent effective as the two viruses are so similar.

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