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After two years of Covid anxiety and stress, travel bans and lockdowns it’s understandable that we’re all ready to spread our wings and head off abroad. But there’s evidence that the holidaymakers are getting spooked about monkeypox – a virus whose case numbers are rising daily.
Research by Holidaysafe shows there’s been a surge in the number of Brits asking whether their travel insurance will cover them for Monkeypox. If you’re insured with Holidaysafe, the answer is yes.
The 93% increase in Google searches related to monkeypox and travel insurance is probably due to increased press coverage – because there have been several hundred cases in about 20 countries recorded so far in 2022, including more than 170 in the UK.
And the cases have been discovered outside central and West Africa where it normally breaks out and is spreading in communities where it hasn’t appeared before.
So, what is it? Is it dangerous? And should travellers be worried?
Monkeypox is not new. It was first discovered in 1958 when outbreaks were discovered in monkeys used for research. The first human case was diagnosed in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1970. It’s a virus that causes fever, fatigue, and a rash of small blisters.
Until now the virus has mostly been confined to West and Central Africa, with about 50 cases a year being reported in the 1990s. A scientific paper earlier this year estimated that in 2020 there were as many as 5,000 cases, again mainly confined to Central and West Africa, particularly the Democratic Republic of Congo.
One reason cited for the increase is the eradication of smallpox – which is closely related and against which people are no longer routinely vaccinated. The smallpox vaccine offers some protection against monkeypox so it may be a factor in the recent outbreaks.
The explosion of international travel is also a likely factor as people choose more and more trips off the beaten track.
You’re unlikely to die from it – the mortality rate is below 4% – but scientists are urging caution and recommending self-isolation for those who develop symptoms. It’s also difficult to catch – you have to have very close extended contact with someone to become infected.
The symptoms in most cases are mild and people generally fully recover in two to four weeks.
Currently, the UK Health Security Agency advice recommends that anyone who has had direct or household contact with a confirmed monkeypox case should isolate for 21 days.
Contacts are advised to provide their details for contact tracing, forgo travel, and avoid contact with immunosuppressed people, pregnant women, and children under twelve.
The wide range of cover included in Holidaysafe policies includes protection against cancellation and curtailment if you were to fall seriously ill with monkeypox and be unable to travel or be legally required to isolate, provided the matter can be certified by a medical practitioner.
It comes as no surprise that travellers are taking a more cautious approach when it comes to their holidays and travel insurance protection, given that many were caught out by Covid-19 by not having the right cover in place.
Sarah Page, brand manager at Holidaysafe, said: “We’re seeing travellers taking interest in their cover and actively making sure their policies match their holiday needs. While this is a good thing, it’s important we offer them the cover they need. The pandemic has given us a lot of insight into dealing with the unexpected and we are ready to react accordingly.
“Right now, there is only a small handful of confirmed monkeypox cases here in the UK.
“While we hope the number of cases stays limited, our team remains committed to monitoring the case rates. And, if necessary, will aim to adjust our policies to be aligned with the government’s guidance to make sure we continue to match our cover to what customers need.”
There is little doubt that the travel insurance sector has learned a lot from the experience of the Covid-19 pandemic. Since 2020 when the pandemic became a reality here at Holidaysafe we have worked hard to understand the impact that the virus had on people’s holiday plans.
We’ve created insurance policies that are designed to give you peace of mind by covering many different scenarios – including the need to self-isolate if you catch the virus.
Scientists around the world are keeping a close eye on the virus which they say is becoming prevalent in regions of the world where it wouldn’t normally occur because people are travelling again.
Richard Hatchett, head of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) told CNBC “Monkeypox is a very different disease than Covid.
It does not spread through respiratory transmission in the same way, so it does not present the kind of global threat that many of us immediately recognized that Covid presented. But it does exemplify the risk that infectious diseases present in the modern world.”
Professor Tom Solomon, from the University of Liverpool’s Pandemic Institute, told BBC News: “This is a very mild disease, if you didn’t look for it you probably wouldn’t even know that it had been occurring. So, the numbers will go up.
“But the important thing is by identifying those cases we can isolate them, and isolate their contacts to stop the spread.”
He added that scientists are “not too alarmed” by the outbreak.
And as for travelling, the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) has just upped its alert level from 1 to 2 – what this means is explained (quite humorously) in detail here.
And if you want to keep an eye on the situation you should check the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) website here.
Or you can contact our team here.
If you would like further information about our medical travel insurance, please visit our dedicated medical condition travel insurance page.
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