Local experts think risk of monkeypox spreading to Hong Kong is low, gay men reminded to stay vigilant


22nd May 2022 – (Hong Kong) An outbreak of monkeypox has recently emerged in Europe and the United States and has spread globally. So far, 12 countries have reported a total of 120 cases. The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Saturday (21st) expected cases to continue to rise, and will announce further guidelines and recommendations to curb the spread of the epidemic in the next few days and on human-to-human transmission.

Ho Pak-leung, director of the Centre for Infection and Infectious Diseases at the University of Hong Kong, said that he believes that the risk of monkeypox being introduced into Hong Kong is low, and that the contagion is not high. There are sufficient isolation facilities in Hong Kong, so he believes that the public need not worry too much, but male homosexuals who have been to Europe and the United States recently and had sexual contact with others, they need to be more vigilant.

This doesn’t mean we are dealing with a new brand of monkeypox — one that only infects males, or one that is sexually transmitted between men who have sex with men. It’s still early days for disease investigators, who are tracking down exactly how genetically related these monkeypox cases may be, and how they might be spreading from person to person. For now, experts are divided on whether we should give much weight to the fact that most of the monkeypox patients diagnosed outside Africa recently have been men.

Nevertheless, public health experts and virologists say that the focus on gay men getting monkeypox now is “sadly reminiscent” of some of the initial reporting about HIV and AIDS 40 years ago. “Monkeypox is not a gay disease, and neither are any other infectious diseases,” virus expert and physician Dr. Boghuma Kabisen Titanji, public health researcher Keletso Makofane, and another public health expert who goes by Dr. Neurofourier on Twitter wrote on the PLOS blog “Speaking of Medicine and Health” on Thursday.

Ho Pak-leung also pointed out that monkeypox is a viral infectious disease and is a member of the “orthopoxvirus” family.

At present, cases are mainly concentrated in Central African or West African countries, which are considered local endemic diseases, and sporadic cases have also spread to Europe and the United States. The monkeypox cluster cases this time are concentrated in gay men, and epidemiological investigations show that transmission is mainly through sexual contact. Dr.Albert Au Ka-wing, chief physician of the Infectious Diseases Division of the Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health, said that he would pay close attention to the monkeypox outbreak in Europe, and that the risk to Hong Kong is low after assessment.