YOUth should know: 6 things about monkeypox

Symptoms of the monkeypox infection include fever, body aches, joint pains and headaches.

Ernest Cheng

Has an unhealthy obsession with iced lemon tea.

Published: 12 August 2022, 4:19 PM

Singapore’s first case of monkeypox infection – a 45-year-old male Malaysian national – was confirmed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Jul 6.

In the same month, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the 2022 monkeypox outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

As of Aug 5, Singapore has recorded 15 cases of the infection, comprising five imported cases, nine local unlinked cases and one linked case.

With the global monkeypox situation unfolding, Youthopia spoke to Dr Darius Beh, Associate Consultant at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) to learn more about the virus.

Here are six things youths should know about the virus to keep themselves safe:

1. What is monkeypox?

The virus is a member of the Poxviridae family which includes cowpox, horsepox, vaccinia and smallpox.

Up until recently, cases have been mainly imported from Western and Central Africa, where transmission was mainly thought to arise from contact with animals or consumption of bush meat.

2. What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

According to Dr Beh, symptoms of the virus include fever, body aches, joint pains, headaches, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes and a rash.

The rash may appear similar to a pimple, which progresses to a blister before scabbing over and healing. It may be located around the genitals or around the anus or mouth, if there was exposure through sexual contact, or in other areas such as the hands, feet, chest or face.

The rashes may be painful or itchy, and can appear before the fever.

3. How does monkeypox spread?

Monkeypox spreads mainly through close, personal and often skin-to-skin contact.

This can include direct or intimate contact with a rash or the body fluids of a person with monkeypox, as well as touching objects or surfaces used by someone with monkeypox.

Increasing your number of sexual partners also increases your risk of monkeypox.

4. How does NCID handle Monkeypox cases? Is there a protocol in place?

Since early June, the NCID, together with MOH, have put in place guidance for doctors to help identify patients who may need testing for monkeypox.

“On NCID’s end, there are duty officers and Infectious Disease Specialists on-call daily to evaluate and manage such cases. Depending on the case, patients may be evaluated first in NCID’s Clinic J Special Precaution Area or directly admitted for evaluation and testing.

“Precautions are taken to ensure that monkeypox does not spread to staff and within the hospital – patients are seen in negative pressure isolation facilities and staff wear appropriate personal protective equipment,” explained Dr Darius Beh.

He also added that adherence to cleaning, disinfection and handling of specimens is strictly maintained.

5. Is there a vaccine against monkeypox?

As of now, smallpox vaccination is offered in Singapore for close contacts of monkeypox patients. The vaccination is best given within four days of exposure, and past data has shown that it is 85 per cent effective in preventing monkeypox, according to Dr Beh.

Mass population-wide vaccination with the smallpox vaccine is currently not recommended by WHO as a preventive strategy for monkeypox as the benefits do not outweigh the risk.

6. What should I do if I have symptoms similar to monkeypox?

If one develops a new or unexplained rash, they should avoid close contact with others until they have been evaluated by a doctor, advised Dr Beh.

The infection can be diagnosed by swabbing the skin for blister fluid, scabs or crusts and testing for the virus.

For confirmed cases of monkeypox, close contacts will be assessed for vaccination as part of post-exposure prophylaxis.

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