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Traveller who transited through Singapore to Australia tests positive for monkeypox

Traveller who transited through Singapore to Australia tests positive for monkeypox

Travellers at the Changi Airport Terminal 3 departure hall on Mar 30, 2022. (Photo: CNA/Grace Yeoh)

SINGAPORE: A traveller who transited through Singapore to Australia last week has tested positive for monkeypox, Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Monday (Jun 6).

The man departed from Barcelona on Jun 1 and arrived at Changi Airport the following day, the ministry said. He remained in the transit holding area at Changi Airport until his departure for Sydney on the same day.

He arrived in Sydney on Jun 3, where he tested positive for the disease. He did not visit other areas in Changi Airport, MOH said.

“As the case did not enter Singapore or interact with persons in the community, there is currently no significant risk of community transmission,” MOH added.

“However, as a precautionary measure, we have conducted contact tracing for the two affected flights and those who might have come into contact with the traveller at the airport transit area.”

There were no assessed close contacts and therefore no requirement for quarantine, it added.

“However, we have put 13 persons who may have casual contact with the traveller on phone surveillance for 21 days,” the ministry said.

“Persons under phone surveillance will receive daily phone calls to ascertain their health status until the end of the monitoring period.

"Should they report symptoms that are suggestive of monkeypox infection, they will be medically assessed and may be conveyed to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases for further evaluation.”

Singapore last detected a monkeypox case in 2019. A 38-year-old Nigerian man arrived in Singapore on Apr 28, 2019, and tested positive for the disease on May 8 that year.

He recovered and was discharged from the National Centre for Infectious Diseases on May 24, 2019.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on May 28 that Singapore "should not be surprised" if monkeypox is detected in Singapore, as people travel widely and the country is a commercial and international hub.

"Thankfully we have in place the necessary protocols and public health measures, triggered by an imported case in 2019," he wrote in a Facebook post.

"Monkeypox is very unlikely to be a pandemic like COVID-19. It is transmitted mostly by close physical contact, and not airborne like COVID-19, which transmits more quickly and widely.

"For example, if you are very close to someone with rash lesions due to monkeypox, you can be infected."

The incubation period is one to three weeks, and symptoms can last for two to four weeks, he said. These include fever, chills, headaches and muscle aches as well as swollen lymph nodes and a rash.

People with a "new unexplained rash", even if they have not travelled recently, should see a doctor immediately so that a diagnosis can be made and early treatment started, he said.

New South Wales' Ministry of Health (NSW Health) said last Saturday that it has identified four monkeypox cases in the state, as well as a "probable" fifth case.

It added that it was undertaking contact tracing, but investigations to date had not identified any high-risk contacts in New South Wales.

"Monkeypox does not present a transmission risk to the general community, and has until recently not been an infection most clinicians in New South Wales would have been looking for or concerned about in their patients," said NSW Health.

About 780 cases of monkeypox have been reported in 27 non-endemic countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Sunday, but it maintained that the global risk level was moderate.

The WHO said the 780 figure, for cases from May 13 to Jun 2, was probably an underestimate due to limited epidemiological and laboratory information.

"It is highly likely that other countries will identify cases and there will be further spread of the virus," the UN health agency added.

Few hospitalisations have been reported, apart from patients being isolated. Countries that have reported cases include Britain, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Canada.

Source: CNA/ga(aj/mi)