Even as the world struggles for a new normal in the long aftermath of the worst phases of the coronavirus pandemic, it appears to be time to prepare for a new disease. More than 18,000 monkeypox cases have been reported in 78 countries, with the majority in Europe. However, given the transmissibility of the virus and the upsurge in international travel after the cessation of Covid-19-prompted lockdowns, it is clear that Singapore cannot avoid an attack from the latest feature of a dismal epidemiological calendar. Indeed, the country saw its first monkeypox case on July 6 and now has several cases, both local and imported. None of them is linked, but contact tracing is ongoing. Clearly, more monkeypox cases can be expected to surface here in the weeks ahead. The risk to the public remains low, but it is time for Singaporeans to face up to the reality of the new global outbreak without panicking and by studying the disease calmly so as to minimise its effects on themselves, their families and the society at large.
The Ministry of Health says that, since last May, there have been reports of monkeypox cases in several regions of the world, including some cases with no or unknown travel history to monkeypox-endemic countries and occurring in men who have sex with men (MSM). While there have been cases identified among MSM, anyone can be infected through close or direct contact. Hence the need to avoid that contact, beginning with MSM who have multiple sexual partners. They must exercise responsibility so as to safeguard the health of others. That said, it would not do to associate the disease with only certain sexual practices. Homophobic attitudes would not further the work of the public health authorities but represent a social setback.