KUALA LUMPUR, May 23 – Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii today urged the Ministry of Health (MOH) to establish travel guidelines for travellers who intend to visit countries that have reported monkeypox cases so far.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said recently that it expects more monkeypox cases to be reported in areas that are not endemic to the disease, as countries increase surveillance for the virus.
Monkeypox has been reported so far since May 13 in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, and several European countries, with 92 confirmed cases of the rarely fatal disease. No deaths have been reported to date.
“That is why proper guidelines and recommendations must be issued by MOH, including advising Malaysians that are planning to visit countries affected by the monkeypox outbreak to get vaccinated beforehand to protect themselves against the virus,” Dr Yii mentioned in a statement today.
Besides citing the WHO’s recommendation to administer existing smallpox or chickenpox vaccines that are said to be 85 per cent effective against monkeypox, Dr Yii proposed to the government to escalate Malaysia’s border control measures by monitoring travellers who return from infected areas.
“The public should also be educated and given guidelines on monitoring monkeypox symptoms, including quarantine measures if needed, to prevent local transmission,” said the chairman of the Dewan Rakyat special select committee on health, science and innovation.
It is important to note that WHO did not find any travel links among monkeypox cases reported in the current international outbreak to endemic areas, which the global health body described as a “highly unusual event”.
Similarly, the UK’s Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has also mentioned that most of the latest monkeypox cases identified in England – with 20 confirmed cases as of May 20 – had no travel links to countries where the disease is endemic.
According to WHO, the recent outbreak of monkeypox spreads through close contacts of infected individuals, including household members, health care workers, and sexual partners.
Dr Yii advised high risk travellers who have visited countries that have reported monkeypox cases to seek medical assistance if they experience any symptoms of the disease.
“So far, the virus has not been reported in Malaysia so we have to be extra vigilant.”
Although monkeypox disease is not fatal, Dr Yii urged everyone to be on their toes to prevent disease outbreaks in Malaysia.
“In order to build strong public confidence and not cause any unnecessary panic, the public should be given all the necessary guidelines, advisory and recommendations so that they are better educated and informed on this important issue.”
Malaysia’s Ministry of Health (MOH), on May 21, said that it will continue to monitor the recent updates of the monkeypox situation through WHO reports and monitor suspected cases in Malaysia at all international gateways.
MOH has also advised travellers who visited areas that have reported monkeypox cases – including central and west Africa where the disease is endemic, as well as countries that are experiencing an outbreak of the disease – to take relevant precautionary measures.
Suggested precautionary measures include:
- Maintain high personal hygiene, including washing hands regularly after going to the toilet or when hands are dirty.
- Avoid direct contact with wounds of people or animals infected with monkeypox, as well as objects that may be contaminated with body fluids, such as dirty clothing worn by infected persons.
- Avoid contact with wild animals or eating their meat.
“The possibility of human-to-human transmission of the infection is limited. Therefore, the risk of the virus spreading to Malaysia is low, unless there is a history of contact with infected animals or direct contact with patients infected with monkeypox,” Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah mentioned in the May 21 statement.
“Travellers who have arrived in Malaysia from areas where there is monkeypox infection and experience symptoms of the disease within three weeks after leaving the area are advised to immediately seek treatment at a nearby health facility.
“Inform the doctor about the history of the trip. Avoid direct contact with other individuals and perform isolation for at least 21 days to ensure the maculopapular rash to dry completely.”
Acute rashes, fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, muscle and body aches, back pain, and profound weakness are some of the symptoms of monkeypox disease.
So far, monkeypox disease is said to be not fatal, and infected people usually recover in two to four weeks without the need for hospitalisation. No deaths have been reported to date in the current outbreak.