Small chance of monkeypox here, but be careful, says health ministry

Skin lesions seen on the hands of a patient with monkeypox. (CDC Public Health Image Library pic)

PETALING JAYA: The health ministry today assured that chances of human-to-human transmission of the monkeypox virus are low, after confirmation in Singapore of one imported case of the infection in the republic.

“The risk of the virus spreading to Malaysia and people being infected is low unless they have a history of contact with infected animals (or are) among travellers from endemic countries in Western and Central Africa, especially Nigeria,” Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye told FMT.

He added that his ministry’s Disease Control Division would continue to monitor news from the World Health Organisation and conduct passive surveillance of suspected monkeypox cases in Malaysia.

Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic disease transmitted from animals to humans, caused by the monkeypox virus.

The virus is transmitted to humans through a bite or direct contact with the blood, body fluids, or cutaneous or mucosal lesions and respiratory droplets of an infected animal.

Lee said the monkeypox virus can also be transmitted through direct contact with the body fluids of an infected person, or with virus-contaminated objects such as bedding or clothing.

It is characterised by smallpox-like signs and symptoms, with fever accompanied by lymph node enlargement, fatigue, headache and skin rashes.

The incubation period can range from five to 21 days, he added, with the illness typically lasting two to four weeks.

He said monkeypox has a fatality rate of about 10% where recovery occurs in nine out of 10 cases.

Singapore’s health ministry, which confirmed the monkeypox case there yesterday, said the patient is a 38-year-old Nigerian who arrived in Singapore alone on April 28 and was tested positive for monkeypox on May 8.

He is currently warded in an isolation ward at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases and his condition is stable, it said in its website.

Lee advised those travelling to areas affected by monkeypox in Central and Western Africa to take precautions including maintaining a high standard of personal hygiene by frequently hand washing after using the toilet or when one’s hands are soiled.

He also gave the following tips:

  1. Avoid direct contact with skin lesions of infected living or dead persons or animals, as well as objects that may have become contaminated with infectious fluids, such as soiled clothing or linen used by infected persons.
  2. Avoid contact with wild animals and consumption of bush meat.
  3. Returning travellers from areas affected by monkeypox should seek immediate medical attention if they develop disease symptoms within three weeks of their return, and inform the doctor of their recent travel history.