Monkeypox: Urgent call for volunteer virologists as outbreak spreads

Public health officials have sent out an “urgent” call to consultant virologists for volunteers to help the “rapidly scaling up” monkeypox response, The Independent has learned.

In an email on Friday morning, seen by The Independent, UK Health Security Agency’s head of laboratory business and operations, Louise Forster, said: “We are looking for regional ID, microbiology or virology consultants to join the Monkey Pox clinical cell…

“As you are aware this is a national enhanced incident with a very high priority response, which is rapidly scaling up and we urgently need as many volunteers as possible.”

Volunteers would join a rota acting as a point of contact for clinical advice about monkeypox, and to call clinicians about positive results, according to the email.

The news comes as the World Health Organisation has allegeadly called an emergency meeting in response to the rising number of monkeypox cases globally.

On Friday, UKHSA confirmed 11 further cases, bringing the total up to 20. Chief medical officer for the organisation, Dr Sue Hopkins has said more cases are likely to be identified in the UK.

Dr Michael Head a senior research fellow in Global Health at the University of Southampton, said in response to the rising UK cases: “The monkeypox outbreak continues to escalate, and is undoubtedly worrying. The extent of the community transmission of monkeypox, being observed here in the UK and now in several other countries around the world, is concerning.

“However, it is important to highlight that whilst it is understandable to compare monkeypox with Covid, it’s important to remember they are two different viruses with their own characteristics. A big monkeypox outbreak like this is still a very different situation to a Covid pandemic.”

He said. “We may at some point see the use of the smallpox vaccine recommended for close contacts, as part of a ‘ring vaccination’ approach. For example, this was used successfully during an Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo in 2018/19, where close contacts were vaccinated as part of the public health response.”

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