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Monkeypox not of immediate concern in Thailand, says top virologist

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Monkeypox will continue spreading among humans for a while, the National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology director Dr Anan Jongkaewwattana said on Thursday in response to new cases being detected in Europe and Canada.

Meanwhile, leading virologist Dr Yong Poovorawan said on Friday that monkeypox can only be transmitted through close contact, adding that a case was also detected in Singapore recently. As for the monkeypox case in Britain, he said the authorities are still checking to see if it was transmitted through sexual intercourse.

The first human case of monkeypox, a viral zoonotic disease, was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It has since been found primarily in Central and West Africa, and occasionally in other parts of the world.

The symptoms typically are fever, rash and swollen lymph nodes, and may lead to a range of medical complications.

Dr Anan said the monkeypox variant found in Africa is far more severe than the one currently infecting people in Europe and Canada. He added that the virus comes from the same family as smallpox, which was eradicated by 1980 thanks to widespread vaccination.

When monkeypox was first detected in 1958 among monkeys kept for research, “it was not a big issue because many people had been vaccinated against smallpox”. He said that though the smallpox vaccine can effectively prevent monkeypox infection, “it may spread among humans again as it has been a long time since people have been jabbed against smallpox”.

Separately, Dr Yong supported Dr Anan’s belief that smallpox vaccines can prevent monkeypox, but also urged Thais not to worry about this issue as monkeypox has not been found in Thailand before.

However, he said, surveillance is necessary, especially among travellers from Central and West Africa as well as imported animals.

Published : May 20, 2022

By : THE NATION