HONG KONG – Hong Kong reported its first monkeypox case, diagnosed in a 30-year-old man who reported symptoms while in hotel quarantine after flying into the city, the health department said.
The patient, who had recently visited a number of countries including Canada and the United States, travelled to Hong Kong from the Philippines on Monday.
He reported feeling unwell while in quarantine and is being treated at Queen Mary Hospital, health official Chuang Shuk Kwan said at a briefing on Tuesday.
There is an extremely low risk that anyone in the city contracted monkeypox since prolonged exposure is needed to transmit the virus, said Mr Edwin Tsui, controller of the Centre for Health Protection.
The patient, who engaged in unspecified high-risk activities while abroad, developed a sore throat and difficulty swallowing on his first day in quarantine, after developing a rash a few days earlier, he said.
No close contacts in Hong Kong have been identified.
The city will raise its alert level for monkeypox and notify officials in mainland China and the World Health Organisation about the situation.
Hong Kong’s rigorous travel restrictions may have slowed the arrival of monkeypox, which has been spreading across the globe at an accelerating clip since an outbreak was detected in Britain in early May.
Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee, who cut the period of hotel isolation used to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infections, is facing pressure from the business community to end it entirely as pandemic policies continue to weigh on the economy.
Mr Lee acknowledged on Tuesday the government is having internal conversations about further reducing hotel quarantine before several major planned events in November, despite the fact that Covid-19 infections are topping 10,000 a day.
The arrival of a new virus could add more uncertainty to the decision-making process.
The government said last week that it is finalising negotiations with a vaccine manufacturer for the first shipment of the monkeypox vaccine to arrive in the city this month and has also arranged to reserve facilities for the quarantine of close contacts of confirmed monkeypox cases.
The hospital authority has been preparing to care for monkeypox patients, according to an earlier statement.
It will deploy beds, manpower and medication for those who need it, the agency said. Close contacts will be quarantined for 21 days to prevent transmission, the officials said. BLOOMBERG