Government geared up to tackle monkeypox
Following the decision of the World Health Organization (WHO) to regard the multi-country/place monkeypox outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health has been closely monitoring any suspected cases of monkeypox and is well prepared for any possible outbreak. The primary goal is to prevent local human-to-human transmission of monkeypox and to thwart any local outbreak.
Hong Kong has not recorded any confirmed monkeypox human infection cases so far. While the WHO has recently stated that there are signs that the monkeypox epidemic in some areas (such as Europe) has eased, the Government will continue to be on guard. Early detection of monkeypox cases for isolation and treatment, and identification of their close contacts for quarantine, is at the core of the CHP's strategy against local transmission of the disease. To this end, the CHP has earlier stepped up surveillance and monitoring of monkeypox for both inbound travellers and the local community. Monkeypox has also been included as a statutorily notifiable disease under the Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance (Cap. 599).
The CHP has also enhanced laboratory surveillance for monkeypox. Private medical practitioners could collect swab specimens for monkeypox testing from clinically compatible cases who do not fulfil the reporting criteria for suspected cases, and submit them to the CHP's Public Health Laboratory Services Branch for free testing. The CHP has informed all doctors and private hospitals of the above in its letter earlier, and reminded them to take note of the atypical symptoms of monkeypox infection (including unexplained genital and oral lesions) taking reference from overseas experience.
Infection control experts in the Hospital Authority (HA) have reviewed the public hospitals' preparedness to manage monkeypox patients, including various contingency measures regarding isolation beds, medication and treatment protocols of public hospitals. The HA has formulated a contingency plan and will activate the Emergency Operation Command if necessary. It will work with the Government to closely monitor the situation. It will also deploy beds, manpower and medication to provide appropriate treatment for monkeypox patients.
The WHO does not recommend mass vaccination against monkeypox at this stage, while recommending primary preventive vaccination, which is also known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), for individuals at high risk of exposure including men who have sex with men. The Scientific Committee on Vaccine Preventable Diseases and the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases (JSC) under the CHP also published consensus interim recommendations on monkeypox vaccine. Having regard to the WHO's interim guidance on vaccines and immunisation for monkeypox, the JSC's recommendations and the local context, the CHP plans to arrange monkeypox vaccination on a voluntary basis for close contacts of confirmed cases (also known as post-exposure prophylaxis) to prevent the onset of disease, as well as PrEP for persons at high risk of exposure, such as healthcare workers responsible for caring for monkeypox patients, laboratory staff, animal care personnel and any other high risk groups in the community when there is a documented transmission chain.
"The Government is finalising negotiations with a vaccine manufacturer for the first shipment of the vaccine to Hong Kong within this month. Moreover, to prevent local transmission of monkeypox, we have arranged to reserve facilities for the quarantine of close contacts of confirmed monkeypox cases," a Government spokesman said.
"The WHO has cautioned that the monkeypox epidemic is still evolving and everyone must stay vigilant. We urge the public, especially those subject to high risks of exposure, to take precautions and avoid close physical contact with persons or animals suspected of monkeypox infection. They should seek medical attention as soon as possible if they experience symptoms of monkeypox, including rash, fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, muscle pain, and severe headaches," the spokesman added.
The Government will continue to closely monitor the situation and make preparations to prevent the spread of monkeypox. The Government has also earlier launched the Preparedness and Response Plan for Monkeypox, which is available on the CHP's website (www.chp.gov.hk/files/pdf/preparedness_and_response_plan_for_monkeypox_eng.pdf).
Ends/Friday, September 2, 2022
Issued at HKT 12:00
Issued at HKT 12:00