Monkeypox testing might be expanded across Korea
To prepare for a potential outbreak of monkeypox, Korea is reviewing whether to expand testing to each city and province across the country.
During a meeting at the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasure Headquarters on Wednesday, health authorities discussed ways to prevent monkeypox from coming from cities across Europe and North America to Korea.
As the possibility of cases coming in cannot be ruled out considering the increase in overseas travel and the easing of virus preventive measures, the government decided to preemptively boost its testing system.
“We established a testing protocol for monkeypox in 2016,” said Lee Ki-il, the second vice minister of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, during Wednesday’s meeting, which included a way to detect patients and to develop reagents.
“We are also working on ways to expand testing to health and environment researchers in cities and provinces nationwide,” Lee added.
Health authorities explained that monkeypox cases can be detected through real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests. But that method can only be done by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). Thus health authorities are considering implementing the testing system in health and environment research institutes in cities and provinces across the country.
According to KDCA data, as of Monday, a total of 171 patients and 86 suspected cases of monkeypox have been reported in 18 countries, including Europe, the United States, Australia and Israel.
The KDCA is asking arrivals to contact them if symptoms appear within three weeks of landing in Korea, which include fever, shivering, headache, and rashes.
It also started requiring all travelers to check their temperatures and fill in a health questionnaire when entering Korea.
While North Korea continues to grapple with rising suspected Covid-19 infections, its state-controlled media carried reports Wednesday on the monkeypox, paying new attention to the disease that has been spreading elsewhere.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) said that cases of monkeypox, which have recently spread in various countries and regions, are expected to expand further in the future,” the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on its website on Wednesday.
“Monkeypox virus is caused by the same group of viruses that cause smallpox, but is much milder and has a low infection rate,” it wrote, while adding, “Fatalities have been reported in western Africa.”
The North Korean media also explained the infection route and symptoms in detail. However, it did not mention that a significant proportion of recent monkeypox cases have been identified among men who have sex with other men.
“Monkeypox is known to spread through close contact between people,” it said. “It can enter the body through injured skin, or through the eyes, nose, and mouth.”
Regarding treatment, the KCNA explained no treatment is available so far, yet added “the outbreak can be controlled by preventing infection.”
“The smallpox vaccine has been proven to have an 85 percent preventive effect on the disease,” the KCNA wrote.
BY SEO JI-EUN [email@example.com]