Singapore confirms first local case of monkeypox

Composite picture of a person in hazmat suit and monkey pox stock image. (PHOTOS: Getty Images)
The case is a 45-year-old Malaysian man who resides in Singapore, said the Ministry of Health in a press statement on 6 July, 2022. (PHOTOS: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Singapore authorities have confirmed the city-state's first local case of monkeypox infection.

The case is a 45-year-old Malaysian man who resides in Singapore, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) in a press statement on Wednesday (6 July).

To date, three close contacts of the infected man have been identified, involving two housemates and one social contact. All close contacts will be quarantined for 21 days from their last contact with the case, said MOH, adding that contact tracing is ongoing.

He is not linked to the separate imported case of monkeypox announced by MOH on 21 June, according to MOH. The latter is a 42-year-old British man who works as a flight attendant and was here between 15 and 17 June, and again on 19 June. He tested positive for monkeypox on 20 June.

The Malaysian is currently warded at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) and his condition is stable, MOH said.

On 30 June, he first developed lower abdomen skin lesions, and subsequently experienced fatigue and swollen lymph nodes on 2 July. Two days later, after developing a fever and sore throat, the man sought medical attention where initial tests for other possible medical conditions were conducted.

When the tests returned negative, he was subsequently conveyed to NCID on 6 July, where he was isolated for further assessment, MOH said.

"MOH will continue to monitor the monkeypox situation closely and calibrate our preparedness and response measures as needed."

Members of the public should exercise personal responsibility by monitoring their personal health and maintaining good hygiene, especially during travel, MOH advised. They should avoid close contact with other people known or suspected to be ill with monkeypox.

More than 6,000 cases of monkeypox have now been reported from 59 countries and territories in the current outbreak, according to the latest update by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The UN agency will reconvene a meeting of the committee that will advise on declaring the outbreak a global health emergency – WHO's highest level of alert – in the week beginning 18 July or sooner, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday during a virtual news conference.

At its previous meeting on 27 June, the committee decided that the outbreak was not yet a health emergency.

Monkeypox, a usually mild viral infection that causes flu-like symptoms and skin lesions, has been spreading globally since May.

The fatality rate in previous outbreaks of the monkeypox strain currently spreading has been around 1 per cent.

While patients typically recover within two to four weeks, a small percentage of those infected can fall seriously ill or even die. Those particularly vulnerable to complications are young children, pregnant women or immunocompromised individuals.

The risk to the general public remains low given that transmission of the infection requires close physical or prolonged contact.

Given these reasons, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung in a written parliamentary reply on Monday said monkeypox is unlikely to become a global pandemic like COVID-19.

"Unlike COVID-19 vaccination, mass population-wide vaccination with the smallpox vaccine is not recommended as a preventive strategy for monkeypox, in line with international recommendations and the global response thus far," Ong wrote.

Although the smallpox vaccine is up to 85 per cent effective at preventing monkeypox, it has potentially severe side effects, according to Ong.

For the general population, the risks of complications outweigh the benefits, because they are at low risk of being infected, he added.

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