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Editorial: Information crucial in monkeypox outbreak as Japan confirms cases

  • July 30, 2022
  • , The Mainichi
  • English Press

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global emergency over the outbreak of monkeypox, which has spread in dozens of countries. Japan, too, has confirmed cases, and needs to take measures to prevent an epidemic.

 

The infectious disease is similar to smallpox, and the virus was first identified in 1958 in monkeys. Symptoms include fevers, headaches and a rash. In many cases they subside naturally. Up until now, patients had been confirmed mainly in African countries.

 

Starting this year, however, a number of monkeypox patients were confirmed in Europe and the United States among those without recent travel history to Africa. According to the WHO, the virus has been confirmed in 78 countries and regions, with some 18,000 cases.

 

The two monkeypox patients identified in Japan so far are both men, and they have both visited or lived overseas. They have been hospitalized, but are reportedly in stable condition.

According to Japan’s health ministry, the monkeypox virus is transmitted via close contact, including directly touching a patient’s rash or blood, and sharing bedding.

 

Most patients confirmed globally thus far are men. It’s believed sexual contact between men triggered an outbreak. However, medical experts and the patients’ families have also contracted the virus regardless of gender. Expectant mothers and children are believed to be at a higher risk of developing severe illness.

 

No fatal case has been confirmed outside Africa in the latest outbreak. Experts have also called on people to remain calm, stating that monkeypox will not spread explosively like COVID-19. It’s important that we take measures based on the virus’s characteristics.

 

Smallpox vaccines are said to prevent monkeypox and the disease from becoming severe. In Japan, people in their late 40s and older have been vaccinated against smallpox.

 

The Japanese government says it has enough vaccine doses in stock. A system should be built so that unvaccinated medical professionals and families of the patients can get vaccinated as necessary.

 

Monkeypox medication hasn’t been approved in Japan, but is available for use under a clinical research framework. An environment where patients who wish to receive treatment are appropriately cared for is crucial.

 

It’s also important to prevent discrimination or prejudice. The HIV outbreak triggered discrimination against gay people. We must not repeat the same mistake.

We urge the Japanese government to tackle the health issue and provide precise information.

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