SINGAPORE – With more than 14,000 monkeypox cases reported in more than 70 countries and territories mostly since May, the World Health Organisation (WHO) will hold an emergency meeting on Thursday (July 21) to decide whether the outbreak constitutes a global health emergency.
WHO’s emergency committee for the monkeypox outbreak met for the first time on June 23, and on June 25, the global health body said the outbreak did not constitute what it calls a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).
There have been five deaths in this monkeypox outbreak, all in Africa.
In Singapore, the authorities have registered six cases of monkeypox, three of which are local cases. None of them is linked.
Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang, an infectious diseases expert at National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, said the local cases are generally similar to the global ones, and are neither more nor less worrying in that regard.
“But the presence of unlinked cases means we will likely see more cases of local monkeypox cases in the near future, and that the outbreak in Singapore has not been controlled yet,” he said.
“The silver lining is that the number of cases remains very small, with new cases popping up sporadically rather than in increasingly large numbers.”
In the past, the disease would surface incidentally in humans, and usually sporadically in forested parts of Central and West Africa, where it is endemic.
In the current outbreak, monkeypox started spreading quickly in Europe, which experts have linked to raves and the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning) Pride events there. It is almost certainly transmitted via close contact during sexual intercourse, said Prof Hsu.
Most of the cases in the current outbreak are being spread in networks of men who have sex with men.
Overseas, monkeypox cases were picked up at sexual health clinics when people sought help for what they thought was a sexually transmitted infection.
In Singapore, the Department of Sexually Transmitted Infections Control (DSC) clinic, run by the National Skin Centre (NSC), has seen one confirmed monkeypox case, said Professor Roy Chan, a senior consultant and medical adviser at NSC.