Two UK tourists with suspected monkeypox airlifted from Greece

Two tourists with suspected monkeypox have been airlifted from Kefalonia in Greece using specialist isolation equipment. Just after 11pm on Saturday a Hellenic Air Force C-130 Hercules picked up two British tourists from an airport in Kefalonia.

A 29-year-old man from London and his girlfriend were transported from Kefalonia to Athens. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control is conducting a Rapid Risk Assessment.

A spokesman for Greece’s National Health Care organization EODY said: “A suspected case of possible infection with monkeypox is being investigated. It is an English tourist who, together with his companion, asymptomatic, are to be transferred to Attikon hospital in order to be treated in negative pressure rooms.

“EODY has received samples for confirmatory examination and they were sent to a reference laboratory. Results will be available on Monday.”

The plane was carrying an isolation and transport system operated by EpiGuard, a Norwegian company, operating from one of 12 National Centers for Emergency Care in Greece. The system, known as EpiShuttle, is used to transport patients with suspected Covid, ebola, measles, tuberculosis, and now monkeypox.

The EpiShuttle can isolate any contagious patient, regardless of disease, and protect the staff and others. Ellen Cathrine Andersen, the CEO of EpiGuard, said her company steps in when patients need transport from outbreak hotspots to where ICU capacity is available, as well as offering intrahospital transfer for potentially contagious patients.

The EpiShuttle is completely airtight, and once the patient is loaded into an EpiShuttle, medical staff do not have to wear full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Downing Street has said the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is monitoring monkeypox “extremely carefully”. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We have the UK Health Security Agency who are monitoring this extremely carefully.

“The facts we know is that monkeypox is not usually spread easily between people, and the risk to others remains low. A notable portion of early cases detected have been in gay and bisexual men, so the UKHSA is urging this community in particular to be alert.

“It’s true to say that most people recover within a few weeks.”

Asked if the Prime Minister has spoken to chief medical officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty over the matter, the spokesman said: “I don’t believe he has. He’s receiving regular updates on it and the Health Secretary is leading for the Cabinet.”

Boris Johnson said monkeypox was a rare disease but it was important to “keep an eye on it” following a spate of cases.

The Prime Minister told reporters on a visit to a school in south-east London: “It’s basically very rare disease, and so far the consequences don’t seem to be very serious but it’s important that we keep an eye on it and that’s exactly what the the new UK Health Security Agency is doing. ”

Asked whether there should be quarantine for visitors or the use of the smallpox vaccine, Mr Johnson said: “As things stand the judgment is that it’s rare.

“I think we’re looking very carefully at the circumstances of transmission.

“It hasn’t yet proved, fatal in any case that we know of, certainly not in this country.”

Contacts of monkeypox cases at high risk of having caught the infection should self-isolate for 21 days, latest government guidance says.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) guidance now recommends that people who have had “unprotected direct contact or high-risk environmental contact” should isolate for three weeks.

This includes no travel, providing details for contact tracing and avoiding direct contact with immunosuppressed people, pregnant women and children under 12.

Those who are considered at high risk of having caught monkeypox may have had household contact, sexual contact, or have changed an infected person’s bedding without wearing appropriate PPE.

UKHSA also advises that they are offered a smallpox vaccine.

The guidance comes after Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser for UKHSA, warned that monkeypox is spreading through community transmission.

So far the agency has confirmed 20 cases in the UK.

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