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​​​​​​​Transmission dynamics of monkeypox in the United Kingdom: contact tracing study (BMJ, November 02, 2022)

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  • ​​​​​​​Transmission dynamics of monkeypox in the United Kingdom: contact tracing study (BMJ, November 02, 2022)

    CCBYNC Open access

    Research Special Paper

    Transmission dynamics of monkeypox in the United Kingdom: contact tracing study

    BMJ 2022; 379 doi: (Published 02 November 2022)Cite this as: BMJ 2022;379:e073153

    Linked Research

    Transmission dynamics of monkeypox in the United Kingdom
    1. Thomas Ward, head of infectious disease modelling1,
    2. Rachel Christie, senior data scientist1,
    3. Robert S Paton, senior infectious disease modeller1,
    4. Fergus Cumming, deputy director for advanced analytics1,
    5. Christopher E Overton, principal infectious disease modeller123
    1. Author affiliations
    1. Correspondence to: T Ward
    • Accepted 10 October 2022

    Objective To analyse the transmission dynamics of the monkeypox outbreak in the UK, declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern in July 2022.

    Design Contact tracing study, linking data on case-contact pairs and on probable exposure dates.

    Setting Case questionnaires from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), United Kingdom.

    Participants 2746 people with polymerase chain reaction confirmed monkeypox virus in the UK between 6 May and 1 August 2022.

    Main outcome measures The incubation period and serial interval of a monkeypox infection using two bayesian time delay models—one corrected for interval censoring (ICC—interval censoring corrected) and one corrected for interval censoring, right truncation, and epidemic phase bias (ICRTC—interval censoring right truncation corrected). Growth rates of cases by reporting date, when monkeypox virus was confirmed and reported to UKHSA, were estimated using generalised additive models.

    Results The mean age of participants was 37.8 years and 95% reported being gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (1160 out of 1213 reporting). The mean incubation period was estimated to be 7.6 days (95% credible interval 6.5 to 9.9) using the ICC model and 7.8 days (6.6 to 9.2) using the ICRTC model. The estimated mean serial interval was 8.0 days (95% credible interval 6.5 to 9.8) using the ICC model and 9.5 days (7.4 to 12.3) using the ICRTC model. Although the mean serial interval was longer than the incubation period for both models, short serial intervals were more common than short incubation periods, with the 25th centile and the median of the serial interval shorter than the incubation period. For the ICC and ICRTC models, the corresponding estimates ranged from 1.8 days (95% credible interval 1.5 to 1.8) to 1.6 days (1.4 to 1.6) shorter at the 25th centile and 1.6 days (1.5 to 1.7) to 0.8 days (0.3 to 1.2) shorter at the median. 10 out of 13 linked patients had documented pre-symptomatic transmission. Doubling times of cases declined from 9.07 days (95% confidence interval 12.63 to 7.08) on the 6 May, when the first case of monkeypox was reported in the UK, to a halving time of 29 days (95% confidence interval 38.02 to 23.44) on 1 August.

    Conclusions Analysis of the instantaneous growth rate of monkeypox incidence indicates that the epidemic peaked in the UK as of 9 July and then started to decline. Short serial intervals were more common than short incubation periods suggesting considerable pre-symptomatic transmission, which was validated through linked patient level records. For patients who could be linked through personally identifiable data, four days was the maximum time that transmission was detected before symptoms manifested. An isolation period of 16 to 23 days would be required to detect 95% of people with a potential infection. The 95th centile of the serial interval was between 23 and 41 days, suggesting long infectious periods.

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