disease

Indonesia Tightens Inspection of Travellers from Singapore Amid Monkeypox Case

Authorities are closely monitoring several ports in Indonesia to prevent the disease from spreading.

by Adi Renaldi
15 May 2019, 5:48am

Photo by Beawiharta/Reuters

Last week, Singapore health authorities reported an case of monkeypox in the country. The virus entered Singapore with a Nigerian man who tested positive for the disease.

Now authorities on the Indonesian island of Batam, located just 31 kilometres away from Singapore, are taking measures to make sure that the infectious disease monkeypox does not spread into the country. Batam residents often travel to Singapore by ferry, and vice versa.

All passenger ferries are equipped with body heat sensors. If anyone's body heat exceeds 28 degrees Celsius, an alarm goes off. Airports in Indonesia are also conducting strict monitoring of body heat, and authorities are paying extra attention to people arriving from Singapore.

The Batam Health Agency has also prepared six quarantine rooms, in case anyone entering Indonesia tests positive for monkeypox. “We are also requesting supervision at all ports on the island of Riau that are connected to Batam,” says Mimi Yuliana Nazir, head of the Riau Health Agency.

The 38-year-old Nigerian man who became the first monkeypox case in Singapore entered the country to take part in an academic workshop in late April. The man then experienced high fever, rash, muscle pain, and shivers. He is currently being quarantined at Singapore’s National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), and is reported to be in stable condition.

A total of 23 people have been suspected of having come into contact with this man, and are currently held under quarantine. The man is believed to have contracted the monkeypox virus after consuming wild meat in his home country.

As Indonesian authorities continue to monitor travellers going in and out of Singapore, here's everything you need to know about the disease:

First of all, what is monkeypox?

The disease is commonly found in rainforest areas in Central and Western Africa. The monkeypox virus was first identified in 1958, when it infected a group of macaque monkeys in a laboratory. The first human incidence of the disease was reported in 1970 in Zaire (present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo).

In 2003, a small-scale epidemic was reported in South America. The US government confirmed that 47 people tested positive for the virus in six countries. The cause of the epidemic was traced to rodents from Ghana found in a Texas pet shop.

In September 2018, England reported its first case of monkeypox when a monkeypox-positive traveller from Nigeria entered the country.

What are the symptoms?

Monkeypox symptoms don’t typically appear as soon as the patient contracts the virus. It begins with fever, swollen lymph nodes, headache, and skin rash. It is transmitted through direct contact with a sick person or an infected mammal. Someone can be infected through body fluids and air. The incubation period of monkeypox virus is 10-14 days.

Didi Kusmarjadi, the head of Batam Health Office, says the virus can also enter the human body if they consume wild animals’ meat like monkeys or rodents.

Is it deadly?

According to Kusmarjadi, monkeypox is a self-limiting disease that disappears by itself. People who have been vaccinated have a lower risk of getting infected, while those who have never been vaccinated for chickenpox are at greater risk.

As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk of death is relatively low. Only one in 10 infected people end up dying of the disease. But it all varies case to case.

“Patients can die if they have acute complications. The disease is curable as long as you have a good immune system,” says Didi. “Indonesians generally have received smallpox vaccine, so 75 percent of our body are already protected.”

What's the Indonesian government doing to prevent the disease from spreading?

The Indonesian government has been on alert since the virus was first reported by Singapore health authorities. The city government of Batam and Pekanbaru are currently equipping ports and airports with body heat sensors to anticipate the spread of monkeypox virus through humans.

The Ministry of Health has also warned the citizens to avoid direct contact with primates or rodents.

Anung Sugihantono, the Director General of Disease Prevention and Control of the Ministry of Health, urges those who just returned from the areas affected by monkeypox to immediately go to the nearest health facility to make sure they’re not infected.

This was originally published on VICE Indonesia.