South Korea confirms first case of monkeypox virus

SEOUL • South Korea yesterday confirmed its first case of the monkeypox virus and pledged to strengthen monitoring and response systems as it raised the alert level to "caution" for the infectious disease.

A citizen, who is receiving treatment at Incheon Medical Centre after showing symptoms while entering the country from Germany on Tuesday afternoon, has tested positive, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said. The agency did not provide details of the individual.

The KDCA raised the alert level for the infectious disease to "caution", the second of the country's four levels, upon confirmation of the virus case.

It said it will step up monitoring by designating areas that require strengthened quarantine management, mainly among people from countries where monkeypox occurs frequently.

"The KDCA has been pushing for utilising secured (monkeypox) vaccines and treatments... and additional introduction of those, while the agency is continuously expanding its diagnostic testing capabilities," KDCA commissioner Peck Kyong-ran said.

"Among those who have been exposed (to monkeypox virus) through physical contact with confirmed patients, those with medium or high risks will receive vaccination under their consent."

The country, however, is not currently reviewing ring vaccination - where close contacts are vaccinated - for monkeypox, she added.

Earlier yesterday, KDCA reported two suspected cases of the monkeypox virus, but the other case, a foreign national who entered the country on Monday after showing symptoms of blisters and sore throat, tested negative. The agency said this patient was diagnosed with another disease without giving details.

Separately yesterday, President Yoon Suk-yeol ordered the health authority to "step up quarantine management of foreign entrants at airports... and to be fully prepared to distribute vaccines and treatments to the medical field".

Mr Yoon also ordered it to swiftly complete the introduction of third-generation vaccines and antiviral drugs for monkeypox.

Meanwhile in Britain, the authorities are recommending that gay and bisexual men at higher risk of exposure to monkeypox be offered a vaccine, as the outbreak of the viral disease gathers pace mostly in Europe.

Although anyone can contract monkeypox, data from the outbreak suggests the majority of transmission is occurring within the sexual networks of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

UKHSA had recommended that only close contacts of cases, including healthcare workers, be offered the vaccine, Imvanex.

More than 40 countries where monkeypox is not endemic have reported outbreaks as confirmed cases exceed 3,000.

The World Health Organisation is due to hold an emergency meeting today to determine whether to classify the global monkeypox outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2022, with the headline South Korea confirms first case of monkeypox virus. Subscribe