Monkeypox in China: Don’t touch strangers, top health official says after first case emerges

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CNN

A senior Chinese health official has warned people against touching foreigners, a day after mainland China confirmed its first case of monkeypox.

Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, wrote on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo on Saturday that the country’s Covid-19 restrictions and strict border controls had so far prevented the spread. of monkeypox – until one case “slipped through the net.

This case was detected in the southwest municipality of Chongqing. An ‘international arrival’ was under mandatory Covid-19 quarantine when the infection was discovered, local authorities said – however, they did not say whether the person was a foreign or Chinese national.

Cases of monkeypox, which causes flu-like symptoms and blister-like lesions, started popping up around the world in May. The United States has reported 23,500 cases so far this year, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It is necessary and important to strengthen the surveillance and prevention of monkeypox,” Wu wrote in his message, highlighting the risk of the disease spreading through international travel and close contacts. He gave five recommendations to the public – the first being: “Do not have skin-to-skin contact with strangers.

The recommendation sparked controversy on Weibo, with some praising his advice as reasonable and others expressing relief at not knowing many foreigners. “It’s good to open the door to the country, but you can’t let everything in,” wrote one Weibo user.

But others criticized Wu’s message as discriminatory and harmful, with several parallels to the wave of xenophobia and violence Asians abroad faced at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It’s kind of like when the pandemic started, when some people overseas avoided every Chinese they saw out of fear,” one Weibo user wrote. “I don’t believe these two things have a scientific basis, they are too broad and will exacerbate public panic.”

Others pointed out that there are many foreign workers and long-term residents in China who would not have left the country recently and therefore would not be more likely to be infected than Chinese citizens.

“When the pandemic started, some of our overseas friends stood up and used our own platforms to tell everyone, ‘Chinese are not the virus’,” another person wrote on Weibo.

“Thereafter, when the national epidemic was brought under control and our foreign friends began to face discrimination, many Chinese people with their own platforms remained completely silent.”

Dr Sanjay Gupta clears up the confusion surrounding monkeypox

The debate over Wu’s message and other warnings shared by Chinese state media highlights the Covid fatigue shared by many in mainland China, where nearly three years of strict restrictions have disrupted daily life and plunged the economy into turmoil.

Mainland China has some of the toughest remaining Covid rules in the world, including border restrictions, mandatory quarantines, social distancing requirements and instant lockdowns that have left residents unexpectedly trapped in office buildings or buildings. malls to any suspicion of infection inside.

At the height of the outbreak in the country this spring, major cities were shut down without notice and with often confusing information from authorities.

Shanghai, for example, was shut down just days after authorities insisted there was no plan for such a measure, leaving many residents unable to access food, medical care or other basic supplies.

Chinese experts say monkeypox is unlikely to cause such chaos, with state media Global Times reporting on Friday that the disease “poses little threat”, citing a hospital director.

However, they also called for continued vigilance, with some experts stressing the need for “strict monitoring” and countermeasures, according to Global Times.

Monkeypox is spread through close contact, according to the US CDC. This includes direct physical contact with lesions or rashes of patients with monkeypox, touching objects that patients have used, “respiratory secretions” shared through face-to-face interaction, or sexual contact.

In his Weibo post on Saturday, Wu urged people not to have close contact with foreigners or people recently arrived from abroad; maintaining good hygiene; and using disposable toilet paper or disinfecting toilet seats with alcohol wipes before using them.

But some on Weibo responded to those recommendations with frustration and anger, pointing to the many sacrifices they’ve already made throughout the pandemic — perhaps a sign of the public’s already strained relationship with authorities.

‘We are prepared to purchase car insurance in the event of an accident, but we will not refuse to drive,’ one person wrote. “We will wear face masks to avoid catching Covid, but we will not refuse to go out.”

Another user, responding to Wu’s advice, was more blunt: “After the way the Covid-19 pandemic has been handled, can you still trust him?”

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