KUALA LUMPUR, July 25 — The Ministry of Health issued a directive today for all inbound travellers from countries that have reported cases of monkeypox to register and update their health status on the MySejahtera application regularly.
The instruction comes as the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared on Saturday that the monkeypox outbreak, which has affected nearly 17,000 people in 74 countries, to be a global health emergency. The Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) is the highest alarm it can sound.
“All non-citizen travellers must fill their traveller’s card in their MySejahtera application and those coming from countries that have reported cases of monkeypox will receive pop-up health messages daily reminding them to regularly monitor if they have monkeypox symptoms as well as their health status,” Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said in a statement.
“Travellers that are from countries that have reported cases of monkeypox are advised to monitor their health status daily including for any monkeypox symptoms for 21 days from the date of arrival,” he added.
Symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, maculopapular rash that first appears on the face and later spreads to the arms and other parts of the body, body aches and back or joint pain, muscle spasm, and swollen lymph glands.
The disease has affected over 16,800 people in 74 countries, according to a tally by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published on July 22.
A surge in monkeypox infections has been reported since early May outside the West and Central African countries where the disease has long been endemic. Globally, the disease has killed five people.
Overall, 98 per cent of infected people were gay or bisexual men, and around a third were known to have visited sex-on-site venues such as sex parties or saunas within the previous month, but the WHO has stressed that the monkeypox virus does not exclusively target people from these communities and can infect anyone who has been exposed to the disease by physical touch.
From May 1 to July 23 this year, there have been 531,630 arrivals from countries that have reported cases of monkeypox, MoH said.
All of them have received the Health Alert Monkeypox messages through the MySejahtera application, Khairy said. Up to July 23, there had been nine suspected monkeypox cases reported to the MoH but all tested negative, the minister noted.
A viral infection resembling smallpox and first detected in humans in 1970, monkeypox is less dangerous and contagious than smallpox, which was eradicated in 1980, French-based news wire agency AFP reported.
95 per cent of cases have been transmitted through sexual activity, according to a study of 528 people in 16 countries published in the New England Journal of Medicine — the largest research to date.
MoH said it has directed increased surveillance at all entry points into the country and health facilities in response to the WHO’s PHEIC declaration.
The European Union’s drug watchdog on Friday recommended for approval the use of Imvanex, a smallpox vaccine, to treat monkeypox. Imvanex, developed by Danish drugmaker Bavarian Nordic, has been approved in the EU since 2013 for the prevention of smallpox, AFP reported.
MoH said monkeypox can spread through direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids, as well as through direct physical contact with animals that have been infected. The highly contagious disease can be transmitted between the first day before skin lesions appear and up to 21 days after the person no longer shows any symptoms.
The CDC said on its website that pregnant people can also spread the virus to their foetus through the placenta.