Pet hamsters belonging to monkeypox patients should be isolated or killed, say health chiefs

Other animals, including dogs and cats, should also be kept indoors – but can isolate at home as the risks of contracting the virus are lower.

The Telegraph understands the UK Government is set to publish similar advice in the coming days, urging monkeypox patients to keep their distance from animals.

Although the natural reservoir of monkeypox is unknown, experts believe it comes from rodents in west and central Africa, where the disease is endemic.

Virus has a ‘wide host range’

In 2003, an outbreak in the United States was traced back to animals imported as pets from Ghana – two rope squirrels, a Gambian rat and three dormice. The animals infected nearby prairie dogs at a wholesale pet store and the prairie dogs infected 47 people in six states – America has since prohibited the importation of all African rodents.

Prof David Robertson, of the Glasgow Center for Virus Research, told the Telegraph that although the threat of monkeypox jumping from humans to pets to wildlife is low, it is a “valid concern”.

If this happens, it would be incredibly difficult to trace the spread of the virus – which could jump back into humans from wildlife, triggering recurrent outbreaks.

“Rabbits and mice would be ones to watch, as they’re likely to be kept as pets,” Dr Robertson said, pointing to a 1976 study which concluded they could catch the virus.

“This virus does have quite a wide host range which is always worrying in terms of potential to establish in a new host species… it would seem sensible to monitor any animals / pets that infected people are in contact with,” he added.

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