South Korea has confirmed the first case of monkeypox infection in the country and has raised the nation’s alert level for the disease to “caution,” the second of its four alert levels.
A Korean national showed symptoms of monkeypox infection on Tuesday afternoon after entering the country following his visit to Germany. The individual suffered from headaches three days prior to his arrival. He has tested positive and is receiving treatment at the Incheon Medical Center, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). A second suspected case of infection, involving a foreign national, tested negative.
“The KDCA has been pushing for utilizing 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, according to Reuters.
“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.” KDCA did not provide further details of the infected individual.
Authorities are planning to import an antiviral drug called “tecovirimat” for 500 people in mid-July, according to Arirang.
President Yoon Suk-yeol has ordered for a quick introduction of third-generation antiviral drugs and vaccines for monkeypox. He also asked the health authority to “step up” quarantine management for foreign entrants at airports and to be ready to “distribute vaccines and treatments to the medical field,” according to Reuters.
South Korea is not currently reviewing implementing “ring vaccination” for dealing with monkeypox, Peck said. In the ring vaccination strategy, people who are close to an infected individual are vaccinated against that infection. The strategy is used to limit the spread of diseases that can be countered by vaccines.
Multiple cases of monkeypox infections have popped up around the world in recent months. In the United States, 156 such cases have been identified as of June 22, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In Europe, Germany has reported the most number of infections at 521, followed by Spain with 520 cases, Portugal with 304 incidents, France with 277 cases, and the Netherlands with 167 infections. In other affected European countries, case numbers are below 100.
Outside of Europe and the United States, Canada has reported 210 infected individuals.
The United Kingdom has reported 793 confirmed cases, which includes 766 in England, 18 in Scotland, six in Wales, and three in Northern Ireland. The UK government issued guidance that makes gay men with multiple partners a top priority of the country’s monkeypox vaccination campaign.
“There is ongoing transmission primarily in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM). Cases within the GBMSM population have largely been located in the London area,” the June 21 guidance said before adding, “Illness appears to be generally mild.”
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) has proposed that “vaccination should be offered as soon as feasible to GBMSM at highest risk due to a large number of contacts.”
Monkeypox has now been reported in over 40 nations worldwide where the infection is not endemic, with confirmed cases exceeding 3,000.