Don't touch foreigners, Chinese are told as country detects monkeypox

Don’t touch foreigners, top Chinese health chief tells public as country detects first case of monkeypox

  • China’s first monkeypox cases was recorded on Friday in the city of Chongqing 
  • Authorities said patient is a 29-year-old man who had sex with men in Germany
  • A top China health official has now warned citizens to avoid touching foreigners

Chinese citizens shouldn’t touch foreigners to avoid getting monkeypox, one of the country’s top health officials has said.

The warning came as the country confirmed its first confirmed case of the virus, in a person who had recently arrived from overseas. 

It prompted Dr Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDP), to tell the public to avoid ‘skin-to-skin contact’ with foreigners.

Posting on the Chinese social media platform Weibo on Saturday, he added avoiding such contact was considered part of a ‘healthy lifestyle’. 

‘To prevent possible monkeypox infection and as part of our healthy lifestyle, it is recommended that you do not have direct skin-to-skin contact with foreigners,’ the full guidance read.

It was later softened, following backlash over the comments online.  

Dr Wu, who was honoured by the World Health Organization (WHO) earlier this year, also said citizens should avoid contact with their fellows who had recently travelled overseas. 

He praised China’s strict Covid restrictions for helping to prevent the spread of the tropical smallpox-like virus. 

Draconic lockdowns have seen millions of people continuing to be mostly confined to their homes for weeks at a time. 

Dr Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has advised the country’s citizens to avoid touching foreigners after the nation recorded its first case of monkeypox (pictured here in 2014) 

However, Dr Wu said the country must remain vigilant and not allow cases to ‘slip through the net’. 

His post was widely shared on Weibo, with some warning his comments could lead to racist attacks on foreigners who have been living in China for many years.

Others said it drew parallels to the violence Asian people faced at the start of the Covid pandemic due to the association of the virus with people of Chinese heritage.

‘Does he know that many foreigners have been staying in China for years?’ said one.

In another post following the backlash, Dr Wu softened his comments.

He advised citizens to avoid ‘intimate’ contact with foreigners or other people returning from countries where monkeypox cases had been reported. 

He added that as the monkeypox outbreaks in North America and Europe appear to be subsiding, the chance of the disease spreading in China is low. 

Under China’s harsh zero-Covid policy, people entering the country must typically complete between one and two weeks of isolation on arrival.

The country’s first ever confirmed monkeypox patient was spotted in the southwestern city of Chongqing and was ‘immediately isolated’.

The CCDP said the patient was a 29-year-old salesman who had sex with men while on a trip to Germany. 

Local health officials said the risk of further transmission in the city was low. 

The UK’s monkeypox outbreak has largely faded into the background with only 10 new cases recorded on September 12

In the US the monkeypox outbreak has been far larger in scale though like the UK has been on an overall decline in recent months. However, a there has been a slight uptick in the most recent data with 271 new cases on September 19

Monkeypox, a disease which sprang to global attention earlier this year, causes painful skin lesions and flu-like symptoms.

It is usually found in central Africa but the current outbreak has seen the virus spread to some over 100 countries, with more than 60,000 cases worldwide. 

So far the UK has nearly 3,500 confirmed cases.

Although, the outbreak has slowed over recent months, with only 62 new cases in the week to September 12, the latest data available. 

The US has recorded nearly 24,000 cases and at least one confirmed death, though like Britain the outbreak also appears to be running out of steam. 

Historically, the virus has spread via direct contact with lesions, body fluids and respiratory droplets, and sometimes through indirect contamination via surfaces such as shared bedding.

But in this outbreak, there is evidence that sexual transmission is also playing a role.

Earlier this year the WHO has recommended that men at high risk of the disease temporarily consider reducing their number of sex partners or refrain from group or anonymous sex to reduce their risk of catching the virus. 

In the UK a vaccine is currently being offered to close contacts of people who have caught monkeypox, men-who-have-sex-with-men, and health workers treating patients with the disease.

This jab is actually a smallpox vaccine but is still effective as as the diseases are closely related. 

How DO you catch monkeypox and what are the symptoms? EVERYTHING you need to know about tropical virus

How do you catch monkeypox?

Until this worldwide outbreak, monkeypox was usually spread by infected rodents — including rats, mice and even squirrels — in west and central Africa.

Humans can catch the illness — which comes from the same family as smallpox — if they’re bitten by infected animals, touch their blood, bodily fluids, or scabs, or eat wild game or bush meat.

The orthopoxvirus, which causes monkeypox, can enter the body through broken skin — even if it’s not visible, as well as the eyes, nose and mouth.

Despite being mainly spread by wild animals, it was known that monkeypox could be passed on between people. However, health chiefs insist it was very rare until the current outbreak.

Human-to-human spread can occur if someone touches clothing or bedding used by an infected person, or through direct contact with the virus’ tell-tale scabs. The virus can also spread through coughs and sneezes. 

In the ongoing surge in cases, experts think the virus is passing through skin-to-skin contact during sex — even though this exact mechanism has never been seen until now.

How deadly is it?

Monkeypox is usually mild, with most patients recovering within a few weeks without treatment. 

Yet, the disease kills up to 10 per cent of cases. But this high rate is thought to be in part due to a historic lack of testing meaning that a tenth of known cases have died rather than a tenth of all infections.

However, with milder strains the fatality rate is closer to one in 100 — similar to when Covid first hit.

The West African version of the virus, which is mild compared to the Central African strain, is behind the current spread.

How is it tested for? 

It can be difficult to diagnose monkeypox as it is often confused with other infections such as chickenpox.

Monkeypox is confirmed by a clinical assessment by a health professional and a test in the UK’s specialist lab — the UKHSA’s Rare and Imported Pathogens Laboratory.

The test involves taking samples from skin lesions, such as part of the scab, fluid from the lesions or pieces of dry crusts. 

What are the symptoms?

It can take up to three weeks for monkeypox-infected patients to develop any of its tell-tale symptoms.

Early signs of the virus include a fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion — meaning it could, theoretically, be mistaken for other common illnesses.

But its most unusual feature is a rash that often begins on the face, then spreads to other parts of the body, commonly the hands and feet.

The rash changes and goes through different stages before finally forming a scab, which later falls off.

How long is someone contagious?

An individual is contagious from the point their rash appears until all the scabs have fallen off and there is intact skin underneath.

The scabs may also contain infectious virus material.

The infectious period is thought to last for three weeks but may vary between individuals.

What do I do if I have symptoms?

The UK Health Security Agency advises Britons to contact their sexual health clinic if they have a rash with blisters and have been in close contact with a suspected or confirmed monkeypox case or have been in West or Central Africa in the last three weeks. 

Britons are asked to contact clinics ahead of their visit and avoid contact with others until they have been seen by a medic.

Gay and bisexual men have been asked to be especially alert to the symptoms as most of the cases have been detected in men who have sex with men. 

What even is monkeypox?

Monkeypox was first discovered when an outbreak of a pox-like disease occurred in monkeys kept for research in 1958.

The first human case was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the infection has been reported in a number of central and western African countries since then.

Only a handful of cases have been reported outside of Africa and they were confined to people with travel links to the continent. 

The UK, US, Israel and Singapore are the only countries which had detected the virus before May 2022.

Is it related to chickenpox?

Despite causing a similar rash, chickenpox is not related to monkeypox.

The infection, which usually strikes children, is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. 

For comparison, monkeypox — like smallpox — is an orthopoxvirus. Because of this link, smallpox vaccines also provide protection against monkeypox.  

Are young people more vulnerable?

Britons aged under 50 may be more susceptible to monkeypox, according to the World Health Organization.

This is because children in the UK were routinely offered the smallpox jab, which protects against monkeypox, until 1971.

The WHO also warns that the fatality rate has been higher among young children. 

Does it spread as easily as Covid?

Leading experts insist we won’t be seeing Covid-style levels of transmission in the monkeypox outbreak.

A World Health Organization report last year suggested the natural R rate of the virus – the number of people each patient would infect if they lived normally while sick – is two. 

This is lower than the original Wuhan variant of Covid and about a third of the R rate of the Indian ‘Delta’ strain. 

But the real rate is likely much lower because ‘distinctive symptoms greatly aid in its early detection and containment,’ the team said, meaning it’s easy to spot cases and isolate them.

Covid is mainly spread through droplets an infected person releases whenever they breathe, speak, cough or sneeze. 

Is there a vaccine for it? 

The smallpox vaccine, called Imvanex in the UK and Jynneos in the US, can protect against monkeypox because the viruses behind the illnesses are closely related.

There are a handful of antivirals and therapies for smallpox that appear to work on monkeypox, including the drug tecovirimat, which was approved for monkeypox in the EU in January

Data shows it prevents around 85 per cent of cases, and has been used ‘off-label’ in the UK since 2018. 

The jab, thought to cost £20 per dose, contains a modified vaccinia virus, which is similar to both smallpox and monkeypox, but does not cause disease in people. 

Because of its similarity to the pox viruses, antibodies produced against this virus offer cross protection.

Are there any drugs to treat it? 

There are a handful of antivirals and therapies for smallpox that appear to work on monkeypox.

This includes the drug tecovirimat, which was approved for monkeypox in the EU in January.

Tecovirimat prevents the virus from leaving an infected cell, hindering the spread of the virus within the body. 

An injectable antiviral used to treat AIDS called cidofovir can be used to manage the infection, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

It also works by stopping the growth of the virus. 

Source: Read Full Article