Govt must quickly establish testing, treatment framework

With the coronavirus pandemic yet to be contained, the first case of another infectious disease, monkeypox, has been confirmed in Japan. A testing and treatment system must be put in place to prevent the public from feeling uneasy about the disease.

The monkeypox infection was confirmed in a Tokyo resident in his 30s who came into contact with an infected person while traveling in Europe. He is currently hospitalized and his condition is said to be stable.

Monkeypox has been spreading worldwide since May. As of last week, approximately 16,000 cases had been confirmed in 75 countries and regions. The World Health Organization has declared the escalating global monkeypox outbreak “a public health emergency of international concern.”

The main symptoms are fever, chills and rash, and the routes of infection are thought to be through contact with body fluids, the rash itself, or respiratory droplets. Few deaths have been reported, and patients recover within two to four weeks. In most cases, people are infected through close contact, so it is said that the disease is unlikely to spread as quickly as the novel coronavirus.

However, the country is in the midst of a seventh wave of the coronavirus pandemic. The spread of a new infectious disease is something that must be prevented by all means.

In addition to airport quarantine and other border control measures, it is essential to ensure that any patient suspected of being infected in Japan can be promptly tested. The central government should make efforts to quickly disseminate information on the characteristics of the disease and the infection situation, including the circumstances overseas.

Testing will be conducted by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases and local public health institutes in prefectures. It is difficult to predict the areas in which infections will emerge. It is vital to have a system in place to be ready to respond at any time.

Treatment is available at general medical institutions and is based on symptomatic therapy. Besides, the central government has imported a drug yet to receive approval for domestic use and has made it available.

The smallpox vaccine is said to be effective against monkeypox. Inoculating close contacts is reportedly effective in preventing the onset of the disease. The central government has stockpiled the vaccine as a counterterrorism measure and will soon start discussions on its use for monkeypox. Procedures need to be expedited.

Currently, most people infected in the global outbreak are men, and the spread has been linked to sexual activity among men in some communities. Prejudice and discrimination against infected people cannot be tolerated. At the same time, vigilance against infection is necessary because not only specified individuals are infected.

Personal hygiene measures, such as wearing masks and washing hands with soap, are important. Basic infection prevention should also be thoroughly followed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as well as monkeypox. If any worrisome symptoms such as fever or rash appear, it is vital to seek medical attention immediately.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 27, 2022)