Korea raises its guard a bit for monkeypox
Korea raised its guard at its borders to catch monkeypox cases amid a rise in cases in other countries.
“All travelers are required to check their temperatures and fill in a health questionnaire when entering Korea,” the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said in a press release on Tuesday.
The KDCA asked arrivals to contact it if symptoms appear within three weeks of arrival, which include fever above 38 degrees, shivering, headache, swollen lymph glands, and a rash that usually starts on the face and then extends to other parts of the body including the genitals.
Health authorities stressed that overseas travelers should comply with basic health protocols, such as mask wearing and hand washing. When visiting destinations with monkeypox cases, travelers were told to avoid contact with wild animals and symptomatic patients.
No monkeypox cases have been reported in Korea. Health authorities are closely monitoring overseas outbreaks.
Although human-to-human transmissions of the monkeypox are considered rare, the agency said the possibility of an overseas inflow cannot be ruled out considering the increase in overseas travel and the virus’ incubation period of up to 21 days.
According to KDCA data, as of Monday, a total of 171 patients and 86 suspected cases of the monkeypox have been reported in 18 countries, including Europe, the United States, Australia and Israel.
Korea established a testing protocol for monkeypox in 2016, health authorities noted Tuesday.
The authorities added there is no need to worry.
“Unlike Covid-19, monkeypox is not highly transmissible,” said Lee Sang-won, head of the epidemiological investigations team at the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters. “Sufficient vigilance is necessary, but excessive anxiety is unnecessary.”
Korea has a stockpile of smallpox vaccines sufficient to inoculate 35 million people, which is believed would provide cross-protection against monkeypox. They are not being considered for use “unless it is a very-high risk situation.”
"Smallpox is a viral disease that has been eradicated by humans, and we are keeping the vaccines in preparation for high-risk events such as laboratory accidents,” Lee explained.
In addition, Korea will not yet establish a separate quarantine system for monkeypox as it did for Covid-19.
“Quarantine and overseas travel are not our problems alone, and are under the principle of reciprocity to some extent," Lee said. “If a public health crisis caused by the monkeypox is declared based on the World Health Organization (WHO)’s evaluation, a quarantine procedure will be created then.”
BY SEO JI-EUN [email@example.com]