Monkeypox: Asia on high alert as cases reported in India and Japan

Japanese authorities on Monday announced the first identified case of monkeypox in the country, in a Tokyo resident in his 30s who returned from Europe in mid-July. According to representatives of the Ministry of Health, the man developed fatigue, followed by a fever, rash and headache. said reporters.

He is currently being treated in a hospital and is “in a stable condition,” officials added, declining to reveal further details about the patient, including his nationality.

According to the WHO, the initial symptoms of monkeypox infection include fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, back pain, muscle aches and fatigue. Later, the disease progresses to rashes and lesions that can form blisters and crusts all over the body, usually lasting two to four weeks.

Antiviral drugs and vaccines already exist for monkeypox, including those used to eradicate smallpox, according to the WHO.

The first identified case in Japan came after the Japanese Foreign Ministry this week urged travelers to exercise caution about the disease. Officials said clinical trials have been launched on treatment and preventive measures, and medical workers working on the front lines in Tokyo have received the vaccine.

Loads in Asia remain low, but experts say there could be a “likely increase” in the region in the coming weeks.

“As with Covid-19, border and travel restrictions have not really stopped the spread of monkeypox, only delayed it. The disease will (continue) spread around the world,” said Khoo Yun Khin, a research fellow at the Duke-NUS Research Center. Outbreak preparedness in Singapore.

“Cases in the US and Europe are rising rapidly due to travel, trade and tourism. We will probably see more cases of monkeypox in Asia in the next few weeks or months.”

It’s only a matter of time before more monkeypox cases are detected in more countries in Asia, Khoo said.

“The real challenge for Asian countries right now is whether early detection and surveillance systems and processes are robust enough to handle positive cases when they come in.” he said.

But he warned against border restrictions.

“While they are (to some extent) useful as a temporary measure, they are not sustainable and not many countries can sustain this again after their experience with the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.

“We need to be on the lookout”

More than 19,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in at least 76 territories around the world, the vast majority of which occurred in places where the virus non-endemic, According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

About a dozen of these new locations are in Asia and the Pacific.

Last week, Thailand reported its first case in a 27-year-old foreigner on the resort island of Phuket. The Southeast Asian country raised a health alert and stepped up checks at border checkpoints after a patient fled to neighboring Cambodia following news of his positive test result. He was later detained in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.

Thai hospitals have also been ordered to scan potential patients for monkeypox and immediately undergo lab tests, Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters on Monday.

Other countries in Asia, including Singapore and India, have reported new cases.

The Singapore Ministry of Health has confirmed a total of 10 cases, including local infections and patients recently arrived from Canada, the UK and Germany.

India is also on high alert following the confirmation of a fourth case of monkeypox in the capital Delhi on Monday. A 34-year-old man was hospitalized with a rash and a fever that lasted for two weeks. The first three cases were identified in the southern state of Kerala among travelers arriving from the United Arab Emirates.

A health worker in Munich, Germany, prepares a syringe with Bavarian Scandinavian monkeypox vaccine.

Since then, airport checks have been stepped up and a high-level medical team has been sent to Kerala to assist the state health authorities in conducting medical research, Indian authorities have said.

In a statement on Tuesday, WHO Regional Director Poonam K. Singh said the risk of a monkeypox outbreak in Southeast Asia was “moderate, but the potential for further international spread is real.”

Anyone can get monkeypox, according to the CDC, but a “notable proportion” of cases of the global outbreak are among gay and bisexual men.

This doesn’t mean the virus is sexually transmitted, but officials say it shows prolonged skin-to-skin contact is one of the main ways monkeypox is spread.

“We must remain vigilant and be ready for intensive action to limit the spread of monkeypox,” WHO’s Singh said. “Our efforts and measures must be sensitive and free from stigma and discrimination.”

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