‘Risk of monkeypox arriving in HK relatively low’

University of Hong Kong microbiologist Ho Pak-leung on Sunday said he believes the risk of a monkeypox outbreak in the territory is relatively low, despite a growing number of cases in Europe, North America and elsewhere.

The virus, which causes distinctive pustules but is rarely fatal, is endemic to parts of central and west Africa.

In recent weeks, cases have been detected in Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, as well as in the United States, Canada, Australia and Israel.

Symptoms of the rare disease include fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face and the virus can be transmitted through contact with skin lesions or droplets from a contaminated person, as well as through shared items such as bedding or towels.

Despite fears of a global spread of the virus, Ho said there is no need for Hong Kong people to worry too much and the chance of monkeypox arriving in the city is relatively low.

He said the disease is not highly contagious, but if it were to arrive here, the city has sufficient isolation facilities.

He noted that some of the patients in Europe are gay men and said epidemiological investigations suggest it is mainly being transmitted through sexual contact.

The expert called for vigilance among any gay men from Hong Kong who recently travelled to Europe or the US and had sexual contact there.

Meanwhile, the Centre for Health Protection said officials are closely monitoring the situation, adding that anybody displaying symptoms of monkeypox would be isolated in hospital. (Additional reporting by AFP)