Korea's guard is slowly raised for monkeypox
With monkeypox spreading to more than 30 countries, Korea issued its first alert and will soon legally designate it an infectious disease that requires compulsory reporting and quarantine.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) issued a low-level alert for monkeypox Tuesday evening after holding a risk assessment meeting on the disease.
The “interest” alert is the lowest in the four-tier infectious disease crisis alert system. It is issued when a new infectious disease emerges or spreads abroad. By comparison, Covid-19 has been subject to the highest “severe” alert since its outbreak in Feb. 2020.
As of Tuesday, 473 monkeypox cases and 136 suspected cases have been reported in 31 countries around the world, according to the KDCA.
Although Korea has yet to report a case, the KDCA said a task force was launched Tuesday.
Health authorities also decided to place monkeypox in the second level of their four-tier infectious disease classification system.
Contagious diseases in Class 2 include chickenpox, measles and Covid-19, which was downgraded by one notch on April 25.
Health care workers must report a confirmed case of a Class 2 notifiable infectious disease within 24 hours, and quarantine can be either required or recommended.
Class 1 infectious diseases include Ebola, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). They require medical staff to immediately report to health authorities upon confirmation of an infected patient, and infected people must be quarantined in high-level isolation facilities such as negative pressure rooms.
“Considering its severity and impact, monkeypox is not a Class 1-level infectious disease, but we decided to designate it as a Class 2 infectious disease as it needs quarantine,” said Lee Hyung-min, director of the new infectious disease response division at the KDCA.
The KDCA asked arrivals to contact it if they experience any suspicious symptoms within three weeks of landing in Korea, which include fever, shivering, headache, and rashes.
The World Health Organization (WHO) also warned of further transmission of monkeypox over the summer.
“The potential for further transmission in Europe and elsewhere over the summer is high,” Hans Kluge, WHO’s Regional Director for Europe, said in a statement released Tuesday.
The extensive measures used to combat Covid-19 are not required to tackle monkeypox as of now, the WHO Regional Director said, but he highlighted the need to contain the outbreak by “stopping human-to-human transmission to the maximum extent possible.”
Korea established a testing protocol for monkeypox in 2016, which includes a way to detect patients.
It also has a stockpile of smallpox vaccines sufficient to inoculate 35 million people, which is believed would provide cross-protection against monkeypox. However, they are not being considered for use by the public, as the vaccines are being kept in preparation for high-risk events such as laboratory accidents.
BY SEO JI-EUN [email@example.com]