The Korea Herald

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S. Korea raises mpox virus alert level

By Lee Jaeeun

Published : April 13, 2023 - 13:02

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South Korea said Thursday it has decided to raise its alert level against mpox -- formerly known as monkeypox -- from the current "Level 1 attention" to "Level 2 caution" as the number of confirmed cases due to community transmission has increased.

According to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, a South Korean national tested positive for mpox on Wednesday, bringing the total number of infections to nine. The KDCA has concluded that the case resulted from community transmission, as this new patient had not traveled overseas in the past three months.

Of the nine total infections so far, four were locally transmitted mpox cases.

The first case of mpox in Korea was reported in June last year and the first five cases were all linked to overseas travel. Korea's sixth case, reported Friday, has been recorded as the first locally transmitted mpox case. Two more individuals tested positive for mpox on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. There are no connections between the four new patients. Epidemiological investigations into recent cases are under way.

Alert Level 2, or “caution” denotes a rise domestically of new infectious diseases from abroad and the limited spread of infectious diseases of unknown cause or reemergence in Korea.

“The KDCA has decided to upgrade the classification of mpox to take preemptive and proactive measures against the virus. Cooperation between the public and the medical community is the most important thing to prevent the spread of disease,” Ji Young-mi, head of the KDCA, said.

The public does not need to be anxious over the authorities raising the alert level as the risk of transmission of mpox among the general population is relatively low, the agency said.

The mpox virus spreads through close personal contact with an infected person through contact with their blisters, saliva or other infected bodily fluids.

Symptoms commonly appear seven to 17 days after skin-to-skin contact. They include a fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen glands, chills, a rash and skin lesions filled with fluid that eventually form scabs and fall off.

Transmission is also possible indirectly, through contact with objects that have been in contact with an infected person, such as clothing, bedding and towels they have used.