Experts have issued a warning to pet owners amid a “significant and concerning” outbreak of monkeypox in the UK.

According to the NHS website, monkeypox can be spread by touching clothing, bedding or towels used by an infected person, touching monkeypox blisters or scabs or the coughs and sneezes of a person infected by the disease.

However, the infection can also be spread by animals, the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) urged people to “manage exposed pets and prevent the disease from being transmitted to wildlife” earlier this week.

The ECDC added: “If human-to-animal transmission occurs, and the virus spreads in an animal population, there is a risk that the disease could become endemic in Europe.

“Rodents, and particularly species of the family of Sciuridae (squirrels) are likely to be suitable hosts, more so than humans, and transmission from humans to (pet) animals is theoretically possible."

Despite a rise in UK cases, the monkeypox outbreak in the UK is not enpemic and the ECDC made clear the probability of a "spill-over event" is "very low".

They said: “Such a spill-over event could potentially lead to the virus establishing in European wildlife and the disease becoming an endemic zoonosis. The probability of this spill-over event is very low.

UK monkeypox cases on the rise

Confirmed monkeypox cases are on the rise.

The number of confirmed cases of monkeypox in the UK has risen to 71, with 14 new cases identified in England, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said on Tuesday.

Health officials said that while the outbreak is “significant and concerning”, the risk to the UK population remains low. The Government has stocks of the smallpox vaccine, which is being offered to very close contacts of those affected.

Those at the highest risk of contracting the disease are being asked to self-isolate at home for 21 days, with others warned to be on the lookout for symptoms.

Symptoms of monkeypox in humans

A rash usually appears 1 to 5 days after the first symptoms. The rash often begins on the face, then spreads to other parts of the body.

Full list of symptoms:

  • a high temperature
  • a headache
  • muscle aches
  • backache
  • swollen glands
  • shivering (chills)
  • exhaustion

The symptoms usually clear up in 2 to 4 weeks.