Low risk of monkeypox spreading to Malaysia — Dr Noor Hisham

Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah

Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah

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KUALA LUMPUR: The risk of monkeypox spreading to Malaysia is low unless there is a history of contact with infected animals or direct contact with patients, says Health director-general (DG) Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

In a statement Saturday (May 21), he said that the possibility of human-to-human transmission of the infection was limited.

However, he said the Health Ministry (MOH) would monitor the developments on the virus’ situation through reports issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO), besides monitoring suspected cases of monkeypox at all international gateways in the country.

He also said travellers to countries where there were monkeypox outbreaks such as in Central and West Africa should take precautionary measures.

"It is important to maintain good personal hygiene including washing hands regularly after going to the toilet or when hands get dirty. Also avoid direct contact with the wounds on infected people and animals, as well as things that may be contaminated with bodily fluids such as dirty clothes used by infected people .

"Avoid contact with wild animals or consuming their meat," he said.

Travellers who arrive in the country from places with the outbreak of monkeypox or display symtoms of the disease within three weeks of leaving those areas, are advised to seek immediate treatment at the nearest health facility.

"Inform the doctor about your travel history. Avoid all contact with other individuals and isolate for at least 21 days to ensure the maculopapular rash is completely dry," he said.

Nor Hisham said monkeypox was caused by an infection of ‘orthopoxviruses’ and the virus is transmitted to humans through bites (of infected animals) or direct contact with the blood of animals or body fluids of the infected animal.

He said the virus could also be spread through respiratory droplets and direct contact with fluids from maculopapular rashes on the body of an infected person or with items contaminated with the virus, such as bedding or clothing.

“The incubation period is usually six to 21 days. Patients will experience symptoms for two to four weeks," he added.

He said at present, the Institute for Medical Research and Public Health Laboratory had the capacity to conduct tests to detect the virus that caused monkeypox in humans.

“The Veterinary Public Health Laboratory and the laboratory of the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia (Perhilitan) also have the capability to conduct tests to detect orthopoxviruses in animals,” he added.

At the same time, he said MOH worked closely with the Malaysian Quarantine and Inspection Services Department  (MAQIS) and Perhilitan to monitor the incidence of monkeypox among wild animals, including those imported from Africa and Continental Europe.

Meanwhile, the MOH called on the public to seek immediate treatment if they experienced symptoms of the disease so that isolation can be done to stop its spread.

"The MOH will provide updates on  the monkeypox infection from time to time," said Dr Noor Hisham, adding that the MOH has prepared a list of frequently asked questions about the infection, which can be downloaded via its National CPRC (Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre) Facebook.

As of Friday (May 20), more than 100 cases of monkeypox were reportedly detected in several countries in Europe, the Americas and Australia, and most cases of the virus did not report a history of travel to countries known to be endemic to the disease.