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Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said in a Facebook post on May 28 that Singapore should not be surprised if a case of monkeypox is detected here in the coming weeks.
He mentioned that over 200 cases of the virus have been detected in over 20 countries and it has sparked a lot of interest in the recent World Health Assembly, which he attended.
Monkeypox not the same as Covid
Ong said that the potential for monkeypox to become a pandemic like Covid-19 is unlikely.
This is attributed to the fact that the virus spreads through physical contact rather than airborne — like Covid-19 which transmits wider and faster.
For example, if you are highly exposed to someone with rash lesions because of monkeypox, you might be potentially infected by the virus.
However, he assured Singaporeans that Singapore has "necessary protocols and public health measures" to deal with monkeypox.
This was due to an imported case of the virus in 2019.
Monkeypox is an orthopoxvirus which has similar symptoms to smallpox albeit less deadly.
Once confined to certain places in Africa, the virus spreads in several ways such as through contact with infected animals, humans or items contaminated with the virus.
It can also enter the human body through breaks in the skin, mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose or mouth, or through the respiratory tract.
The virus can incubate in a person for up to three weeks, with symptoms lasting between two to four weeks.
Symptoms of the virus
Ong elaborated more in his post:
"It usually, but not always, starts with a fever and chills, headache and muscle ache, and swollen lymph nodes.
The typical monkeypox rash lesions then develop around the face/mouth or genital areas, before the rash spreads all over the body."
He also said that the rashes may look like the ones from common chickenpox to the untrained eye, which is why it is important for someone suffering an unexplained rash on the body to go to a doctor for a review, even if the individual has not travelled out recently.
This is so that a diagnosis can be made and treatment can be given, and the spread of the disease to others is minimised.
The virus may cause severe illness or even death to "a small percentage of patients" Ong added.
The Ministry of Health advised the general public to avoid close contact with those who have a fever or pox-like rash.
"It is always good to maintain high standards of personal hygiene at all times, including washing of hands with soap before touching your face," said Ong.
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Top photo by Brian W.J. Mahy/ Wikimedia/ Gerd Altmann
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