MFA refutes inaccurate Indonesian media reports that monkeypox is widespread in S'pore

Clearing the air over fake news on monkeypox.

Matthias Ang | May 17, 2019, 12:04 PM

It appears the recent case of monkeypox in Singapore might have caused a stir for one of our neighbours.

Singapore embassy in Jakarta issues statement to Indonesian media

On May 15, the Singapore embassy in Jakarta issued a statement on Facebook calling out Indonesian media outlets Batam News and Kompas, for reporting that monkeypox is widespread in Singapore.

The embassy stated that such reports were inaccurate, as only one imported case of monkeypox in Singapore has been confirmed thus far.

It further highlighted that the risk of monkeypox spreading in the Singapore community was low.

The post also contained the texts of two letters that it sent to the Editors-in-Chief of both Kompas and Batam News.

Here is the post:

What did the Indonesian media say?

Here's what Kompas and Batam News both reported, according to the letters sent to their respective Editors-in-Chief, Bapak Wisnu Nugroho and Muhammad Zhuri:

Kompas: Monkeypox has spread widely in Singapore

In the case of Kompas, the Singapore embassy singled out an article titled "Cegah Cacar Monyet, Penumpang dari Singapura Diperiksa 'Thermal Detection'".

Translation: To prevent Monkey smallpox, passengers from Singapore are checked with 'thermal detection'.

Here, the embassy noted that the following line in the article indicated that monkeypox was "rife" in Singapore:

"Mulai maraknya merebah wabah penyakit baru yang dikenal dengan sebutan cacar monyet yang belakangan diketahui penyebarannya sudah meluas di Singapura.

Translation: The advent of new diseases known as Monkey Pox, which has been known to spread widely in Singapore."

Batam News: Monkeypox is "rife" in Singapore

As for Batam News, the Singapore embassy referenced an article titled “Waspada Cacar Monyet, Dinkes Bintan Minta KKP Screening Turis Singapura”.

Translation: "On the alert for Monkey smallpox, Bintan's Health Office requests KKP screening for Singaporean tourists".

In this case, the embassy singled out the following line from the article for stating that monkeypox was "rife" in Singapore:

"Hal itu dilakukan untuk mengantisipasi agar virus cacar monyet (monkeypox) yang marak di Singapura tak masuk ke Bintan.

Translation: "This was done to anticipate that the monkey virus (monkey pox), which is rife in Singapore, does not enter Bintan."

How the embassy responded

The embassy pointed out the inaccuracies in both articles.

In laying out a correction of the facts, the embassy pointed out that there had only been one imported case of monkeypox in Singapore thus far.

The embassy also highlighted that the risk of community spread of monkeypox within Singapore was low, and that there was also no evidence to date that human-to-human transmission alone could sustain monkeypox infections in the human population.

The embassy's letters then concluded by requesting that Kompas and Batam News make the necessary correction so that future reports do not carry the same errors.

As of May 15, 11.15pm, the embassy confirmed that Kompas has since made the relevant changes.

Batam on standby for monkeypox

According to the Jakarta PostBatam has set up two hospitals with isolation and emergency rooms — the Batam Free Trade Zone Hospital and Embung Fatimah Public Hospital — to serve as the main treatment centres for suspected patients.

Additionally, thermal detectors have been established at five ports that link Singapore and Batam.

Indonesian authorities are also monitoring visitors coming into the city through the airport, even though there are no direct flights connecting Batam and Singapore.

Said Batam Health Agency head Didi Kusumajadi:

"We will continue monitoring the situation and maintaining preventive measures until Singapore declares that it is free from the virus."

How does monkeypox actually spread?

While human-to-human transmission for monkeypox is possible, it is for the most part quite limited.

In fact, according to the World Health Organisation, “there is no evidence, to date, that person-to-person transmission alone can sustain monkeypox infections in the human population”.

When it does though, this is how it usually spreads:

“Transmission typically occurs from close contact with the respiratory tract secretions or skin lesions of an infected person, or objects recently contaminated by an infected person’s fluids or lesion materials.”

22 people quarantined in Singapore so far

So far, up to 22 people in Singapore have been quarantined over having made close contact with Singapore's first monkeypox patient, a 38-year-old Nigerian, according to CNA (here, here and here).

On May 14, the Ministry of Health (MOH) stated that 23 persons had been identified as close contacts of the patient, including five Singaporean residents, in response to CNA's queries.

However, the 23rd person left Singapore before the patient was diagnosed.

Meanwhile, the rest included people from Britain, India, Ireland, Malaysia, Nigeria and Vietnam, most of whom were at a workshop the patient attended, and four staff members of the Hotel 81 branch that the patient stayed at.

A spokesman for Hotel 81 further confirmed on May 15 that it has worked with MOH and the National Environment Agency (NEA) to disinfect the patient's room.

All 22 persons will be subjected to 21 days of quarantine and monitoring, starting from their date of exposure to the patient as a precautionary measure.

More information about monkeypox:

Top image from Wikipedia.