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Monkeypox: MOH reaching out to ‘at-risk population’, including those engaging in high-risk sexual activities

The Ministry of Health says it is reaching out to at-risk groups through healthcare and community partners as part of efforts to reduce the spread of monkeypox.


Monkeypox: MOH reaching out to ‘at-risk population’, including those engaging in high-risk sexual activities

A file photo from 2001 shows a colored electron-microscopic capture of the monkeypox virus. (Photo: RKI Robert Koch Institute/AFP/File/Andrea MAENNEL, Andrea SCHNARTENDORFF)

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Monday (Jul 25) that it has taken efforts to reach out to "at-risk groups", including those engaging in high-risk sexual activities, to raise awareness of monkeypox transmission.

This is being done through healthcare and community partners, an MOH spokesperson said in response to queries from CNA, and is part of its efforts to reduce the spread of monkeypox infections.

The WHO on Saturday declared the monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency - the highest alarm it can sound.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the outbreak was "concentrated among men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners" which meant it "can be stopped with the right strategies in the right groups".

MOH on Monday said that education and outreach to at-risk groups are important in reducing the spread of monkeypox.

"In line with the WHO’s recommendations, efforts have also been taken to reach out to the at-risk population (for example persons engaging in high-risk sexual activities) through healthcare and community partners to raise awareness of monkeypox virus transmission and the precautionary measures to reduce the risk of onward transmission," said MOH.

CNA has asked MOH to define "high-risk sexual activities".

The ministry also reiterated that exercising personal responsibility by avoiding high-risk activities, especially when symptomatic, and practising good personal hygiene remain effective in reducing the risk of transmission.

Returning travellers, especially from areas affected by monkeypox, should seek immediate medical attention if they develop symptoms such as sudden onset of high fever, swollen lymph nodes and rash within three weeks of their return. They should inform their doctor of their recent travel or risk history.

Anyone who suspects that they may be at risk and are symptomatic should also seek medical treatment immediately, said MOH. 

A surge in monkeypox infections has been reported globally since early May outside the West and Central African countries where the disease has long been endemic.

More than 16,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in 75 countries.

According to a report published by the New England Journal of Medicine last week, 98 per cent of the 528 cases in the study were gay or bisexual men. Transmission was suspected to have occurred through sexual activity in 95 per cent of those infected.

In a TV interview with CNA on Monday, American infectious diseases expert Dr Amesh Adalja said that the priority has to be protecting the people that are at risk, with testing increased for those in that population.


Singapore reported another case of monkeypox infection on Monday, bringing the total number of infections in the country since June to nine. None of the cases so far are linked.

MOH said that it has been regularly updating medical practitioners and healthcare institutions on the monkeypox situation, and providing guidance on the protocols for identifying suspect cases as well as management of confirmed cases.

The majority of the relevant temporary recommendations issued by the WHO were already in place in Singapore before monkeypox was declared a public health emergency, said MOH. 
"Our healthcare system has the expertise and capability to effectively test, diagnose and treat monkeypox infections," said MOH.

Cases are isolated and close contacts are quarantined and monitored for up to 21 days from the last date of exposure to reduce spread of the disease.

Lower risk contacts are also placed on phone surveillance for 21 days from their last exposure, said MOH. 

Separately on Monday, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said that MOH does not recommend the mass vaccination of Singapore’s population against monkeypox. 

“As of now, given the self-limiting nature of the disease, MOH does not recommend the mass vaccination of the whole population against monkeypox, because the benefits do not outweigh the risk,” Mr Ong said in a Facebook post.
Source: CNA/fh


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