The monkeypox outbreak has caused panic around the world. What is monkeypox and what’s the situation in Singapore? We break it down for you.
It’s official. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared monkeypox a global health emergency due to the rapid outbreak around the world. The numbers speak for themselves – there are currently over 16,000 monkeypox cases reported in 75 countries.
Closer to home, Singapore has reported its 11th case of monkeypox (five are imported; six, local) as of writing. So, what is monkeypox and its effects in Singapore? How can we stay vigilant against the spread of the viral disease? We explain the causes, symptoms, how to avoid transmission, and what to do if you’re at risk or symptomatic.
What is monkeypox?
It’s an illness caused by the monkeypox virus. The viral zoonotic infection can spread from animals to humans, and between humans.
How does it spread?
The transmission of monkeypox happens when someone comes into close contact with the virus through an infected animal, person or environment. It spreads through an infected animal by a bite or scratch, or direct contact with blood or body fluids.
Human-to-human transmission occurs through the exposure to respiratory droplets or direct physical contact with the blood, body fluid or lesion material from an infected individual or contaminated space. This includes skin-to-skin, face-to-face, and mouth-to-skin contact, touching infected spaces, clothing or objects; and sexual contact.
People infected with monkeypox usually experience:
– Muscle aches
– Back pain
– Low energy
– Swollen lymph nodes
Subsequently, they’ll develop a rash with blisters on the face, hands, feet, eyes, mouth, body, and genital regions of the body. The seriousness of the rash varies – the number of lesions can go from one to up to a few thousand. These lesions will slowly be filled with liquid before crusting over, drying up and falling off.
The symptoms last about five to 21 days and usually go away on their own or with medication for pain or fever. But it’s important to note that they’ll remain infectious until all lesions have scabbed over.
How can we reduce the transmission of monkeypox in Singapore?
Firstly, limit or avoid skin-to-skin, face-to-face and mouth-to-skin contact with someone who has the above symptoms. This should already be second nature to all of us but remember to wash your hands, and clean objects, surfaces, bedding, towels and clothes regularly. Wear a mask if you can’t avoid close contact. Using condoms isn’t said to prevent monkeypox transmission, but hey, you should be practising safe sex anyway.
If you’re travelling to affected areas, stay vigilant and maintain a high standard of personal hygiene wherever you go. That means washing your hands regularly and thoroughly, and avoiding contact with wild animals and consuming bush meat. Seek medical attention if you develop any symptoms within three weeks after you return and let your doctor know about your travel history.
Is there a vaccine and cure?
A vaccine for preventing monkeypox was recently approved. However, only those who are at risk or have been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox should be vaccinated. As of now, there’s no need for mass vaccination.
The symptoms last about 14 to 21 days and those infected will recover by then. You can take medication for pain and fever to relieve some symptoms. And remember to stay hydrated, eat well and get enough sleep.
Avoid scratching the skin (or lesions); keep it dry and uncovered. Clean the rash with sterilised water or antiseptic. Rinsing with salt water helps with lesions in the mouth, or try warm baths with baking soda and Epsom salts for the body.
Think you have monkeypox? Here’s what to do
Seek medical attention immediately and isolate yourself as soon as possible. We’ve got a case of deja vu ‘cos writing this brings us back to the first time we covered a certain “coronavirus”. Now that we’ve got some experience dealing with a global health emergency, let’s do our part to stay vigilant and take precautionary measures to reduce the risk of monkeypox in Singapore.