Monkeypox is an infectious disease, warns medical expert

28 Aug 2023 06:33pm
Prof Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh
Prof Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh

SHAH ALAM - In response to recent reports of monkeypox cases in Malaysia, Public Health Medicine Specialist, Prof Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh from the Faculty of Medicine at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia has provided insights into the disease.

“Mpox also known as monkeypox is an infectious disease caused by monkeypox virus. The monkeypox virus is an orthopoxvirus that causes mpox. It was first isolated among monkey.

“This virus typically infects rodents like rats and mice, as well as nonhuman primates like monkeys. However, it is also capable of infecting humans,” Dr Sharifa said.

She also said monkeypox can be considered as a zoonatic disease, meaning that it was originally spread by animals but has since hopped species to people, and now humans to humans.

Dr Sharifa further said mpox is most common in Central and West Africa. Cases occurring outside of Africa are frequently the result of foreign travel. For example, infected imported animals or close contact with an mpox-infected animal or person.

“It spreads from infected person to person. Touch, kissing or through sex. It could spread from animals through hunting, skinning, or cooking them. For materials such as contaminated linens, garments, or needles.

“Pregnant women may also transfer the infection on to their unborn child. Urine and faeces containing infectious virus particles can also be a cause of infection,” she added.

Dr Sharifa said the importance of avoiding contact with materials that have been in contact with infected animals or individuals.

“Mpox symptoms can appear three to 17 days after exposure. Mpox symptoms that last two to four weeks may include fever, skin rash, swollen lymph nodes, headache, muscle aches, body aches, and lethargy. A skin rash that looks like small pox appears one to four days after you begin experiencing a fever.

“Mpox rash frequently begins on the face, hands or feet before spreading to other areas of the body. It might result in a severe rash, swollen lymph nodes, and fever. Most people recover completely, while some become very ill,” she said.

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Dr Sharifa further said there is currently no vaccine for mass vaccination in Malaysia, as well as no specific treatment for monkeypox.

She did, however, said that numerous antiviral medicines used to treat smallpox and other illnesses may assist people minimise the intensity and symptoms of mpox.

"In the US, two vaccinations are available to reduce the risk and severity of mpox infection. They are ACAM2000 and JYNNEOS (Imvamune or Imvanex). JYNNEOS is the preferred vaccine for the current mpox outbreak.

“JYNNEOS, the Modified Vaccinia Ankara (MVA) vaccine, was granted approval in 2019 for the prevention of smallpox and monkeypox disease in individuals 18 years of age and older who have been found to be at high risk of infection with smallpox or monkeypox. It is now being used in USA,” she said.

On Aug 25, the Health Ministry (MOH) reported that they have detected the country's first two cases of monkeypox.

According to Health Director-General Datuk Dr Muhammad Radzi Abu Hassan, the first case was a foreigner who had lived and worked in the nation since April 2022.

The second case involved a local individual who had close ties to the first case.