Singapore has reported the first confirmed case of monkeypox in Southeast Asia during this year’s outbreak – while another confirmed case was found in South Korea.
The case in Singapore concerns a Briton who was in the city-state between June 15 and June 17. He tested positive for monkeypox on Monday after developing rashes and a headache and fever last week.
“During this period, he had largely stayed in his hotel room except for visiting a massage establishment and eating at three catering establishments on June 16,” Singapore’s health ministry said on Tuesday.
Thirteen of the man’s close contacts have been identified and contact tracing is underway, the ministry said, adding that the man was being treated at the National Center for Infectious Diseases.
The case in South Korea involves a South Korean citizen who reported himself to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency after returning from Germany on Wednesday. The KCDA said the South Korean – currently being treated at a facility in Seoul – reported having a headache before flying and developed a fever, sore throat, fatigue and skin lesions upon arrival in the country.
Meanwhile, South Korea said it was also investigating a second suspected case involving a foreigner who entered the country on Monday and was taken to a hospital in Busan city after showing symptoms and developing a vesicular skin lesion.
Monkeypox, considered a less serious cousin of smallpox, has an incubation period of seven to 14 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The first symptoms are usually flu-like, such as fever, chills, exhaustion, headache and muscle weakness, followed by swollen lymph nodes, which help the body fight infection and disease.
The disease then progresses to a rash and lesions that can form blisters and scabs all over the body – which usually last two to four weeks.
The virus has been circulating for decades in some places, including parts of West and Central Africa.
But the current outbreak has seen more than 2,500 cases reported in dozens of countries where the disease was not considered endemic – including Australia, which reported its first case on May 20, and the United States , where as of Friday, the CDC had reported more than 110 confirmed cases.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently said it would remove the distinction between endemic and non-endemic countries to reflect a “unified response”.
“The unexpected appearance of monkeypox in several areas in the initial absence of epidemiological links to areas that historically reported monkeypox, suggests that there may have been undetected transmission for some time,” the statement said. WHO in a recent update.
Singapore last detected a case of monkeypox in 2019, in a 38-year-old Nigerian man who traveled to the city-state to attend a wedding.
“Monkey pox is not a new disease, so we know quite a bit about the disease and the virus. [which] has been around for a while,” said Khoo Yoong Khean, a physician and chief scientist at the Duke-NUS Center for Outbreak Preparedness in Singapore.
“But there is a change in how the disease circulates and spreads in this current outbreak… [and] this appears to be an evolving situation.
Khoo said lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic could be applied to any possible outbreak of monkeypox in the region.
“It will be wise for countries to be careful. We have many tools that we used for Covid-19 and they will be useful now: contract research methods, quarantine protocols and even a mass vaccination strategy if necessary.
“While I don’t think we need to be overly concerned about the global situation, and we may be in a better place now, epidemics are never predictable, as we know. We may have surprises from monkeypox in the near future, so we must continue to strengthen our health and surveillance systems, work collaboratively with other countries, and make better decisions than [we did] during the Covid pandemic.
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