Quarantine ends for 18 people who came into close contact with monkeypox patient: MOH

Hands of a person infected by monkeypox in Africa. The Nigerian man who arrived in Singapore when he was infected with monkeypox is still hospitalised but is believed to be doing well. PHOTO: CDC/BRIAN W.J. MAHY

SINGAPORE - The quarantine period has ended for 18 people who came into close contact with a Nigerian man infected with monkeypox.

The remaining four are expected to be released in the coming week after 21 days of quarantine if they continue to show no symptoms, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Tuesday (May 21).

It added that the last person is scheduled to complete the quarantine on May 28.

The victim, however, is still hospitalised at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) where he is believed to be doing well.

He arrived in Singapore on April 28, and started showing symptoms of fever, muscle ache, chills and skin rash two days later.

He spent most of the intervening period in his hotel room before being taken by ambulance to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) on May 7 where he was diagnosed the following day with monkeypox - an infection likened to chicken pox or a milder version of smallpox - and placed in isolation at the NCID.

He told the authorities that he may have contracted the disease after eating bushmeat at a wedding in Nigeria.

The ministry then traced all the people he had been in close contact with and had them quarantined - except for another foreigner who had already left the country.

MOH said Singapore will pick up the entire bill for the treatment and quarantine of the monkeypox victim and the 22 people still here who had close contact with him.

They have wifi at their place of quarantine, but no television, and meals are delivered to them.

Most of the people quarantined had attended the same workshop as the victim. The 18 foreigners are from Britain, India, Ireland, Malaysia, Nigeria and Vietnam.

The other five close contacts, who are locals, have been quarantined at home.

They have all been given a smallpox vaccine, which is 85 per cent effective in preventing infection if given before or up to four days after exposure. Beyond that, it could reduce the symptoms of the illness.

The quarantine is for 21 days from their last contact with the Nigerian visitor, who is Singapore's first case of monkeypox infection.

Singapore is the fourth country in the world outside Africa, and the first in Asia, to have a case of monkeypox after the United States, England and Israel.

MOH said: "Given the public health objectives, the costs incurred from the use of the designated quarantine facility, assessment at NCID, and post-exposure vaccination will be borne by MOH."

The infection is usually transmitted by infected animals. Human to human transmission is less common. For most people, the disease is self-limiting and patients recover in two to three weeks.

However, in western and central Africa, where the disease is usually confined to, outbreaks have caused deaths in one in 10 cases - mostly in younger people.

MOH said it has advised all medical practitioners to remain vigilant against possible imported cases of monkeypox. Healthcare workers have also been advised on the management of the disease.

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