SINGAPORE: Immunocompromised people are at higher risk of contracting severe monkeypox, but the chances of the disease spreading among the general public are “very slim”, experts have said.
The virus that causes monkeypox is transmitted from human to human through large respiratory droplets or bodily fluids, especially through rashes and sores and intimate contact including hugs, kisses and sexual intercourse, they said.
Singapore has reported four cases – three imported and one local infection – since June.
The latest case reported by the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Friday (July 8) was a 30-year-old Indian national who lives in Singapore and had recently returned from Germany.
It came two days after the Ministry of Health reported the country’s first local case of monkeypox infection, a 45-year-old Malaysian man living in Singapore.
But the chances of contracting the disease are “extremely low”, said infectious disease specialist Leong Hoe Nam, who runs a private practice at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital.
“To get it from individuals in Singapore in the local context, (chances are) very slim unless your partner has it,” he said.
“The proof is in the pudding. The cases we had of monkeypox, we quarantined all the contacts but none of them developed monkeypox afterwards.
Dr Leong added that even on a crowded MRT train, “the physical proximity you have is not enough (for the disease to spread).”
From January 1 to July 4 this year, more than 6,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of monkeypox and three deaths were reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 59 countries, territories and regions.
Q: Who is most at risk?
Like many infectious diseases, the elderly or very young or immunocompromised are at greater risk, said Dr. Khoo Yoong Khean of the Duke-NUS Center for Outbreak Preparedness.
The Scientific Officer added that the incidence of this current outbreak appears to be higher in men who have sex with men.
“It doesn’t mean that they are at a higher risk of getting the disease, but that the disease is currently circulating within that community,” he said.
He added that one of the possible reasons why it is more detected within this particular community is that more often than not its members carry out regular health tests and checks, which leads to increased vigilance and detection. .
“As we try to understand the pattern of the disease, we need to communicate accurate facts to the public and avoid stigma, as this will lead to under-reporting of cases by those infected and further spread thereafter,” did he declare.
He added that although monkeypox can be sexually transmitted, it is not considered a sexually transmitted disease.