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Explainer: Why is monkeypox spreading around the world and should Singapore be concerned?

Explainer: Why is monkeypox spreading around the world and should Singapore be concerned?

SINGAPORE — Cases of monkeypox have been on the rise across the world, with a handful appearing in the United Kingdom over the last month, and new cases being reported in Australia, France, Italy and Sweden. The United States also confirmed its first case on Wednesday (May 18) and there are 13 suspected cases in Canada.

However, infectious disease experts in Singapore told TODAY that the virus causing monkeypox is not a cause of concern here for now, and that the chances of widespread transmission is far lower than that of the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus behind Covid-19. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) said that the monkeypox virus was first identified in the late 1950s in monkeys, then found in humans in the 1970s in the Democratic Republic of Congo. An infected person may have symptoms that include fever, headaches, swellings, back pain, aching muscles and a general fatigue.

Once the fever stops, a bumpy rash may develop, often beginning on the face, then spreading to other parts of the body, most commonly the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. The infection usually clears up on its own with symptoms lasting between two and four weeks. 

Experts told TODAY that the spread of the virus has caught the world by surprise because it is not commonly spread among people. However, new evidence does suggest that the virus is transmitted sexually between men who have consensual sex and this may explain why cases are spreading.

WHO stated on its website that close physical contact is a well-known risk factor for disease spread, but it is unclear at this time if the monkeypox virus can be passed specifically through sexual contact and that more studies are needed to better understand this risk.

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