China’s First Monkeypox Case: “Don’t Touch Foreigners!”


China has just confirmed its first monkeypox case. A senior health official in China has now warned the public not to touch foreigners in order to avoid getting monkeypox.

Wu Zunyou, the 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 tight border controls had thus far prevented the spread of monkeypox – until a case “slipped through the net.”

China’s one monkeypox case was detected in the southwest municipality of Chongqing. An “international arrival” was under mandatory COVID-19 quarantine when the infection was discovered, according to local authorities, however, they did not say whether the person was a foreign or Chinese national, according to a report by CNN. 

“It is necessary and important to strengthen the monitoring and prevention of monkeypox,” Wu wrote in his post, emphasizing the risk of disease spreading through international travel and close contact. He gave five recommendations for the public – the first being, “Do not have skin-to-skin contact with foreigners.”

While some were open to Wu’s advice, others found it inflammatory and discriminative. “It’s good to open the country’s door, but we can’t just let everything in,” one Weibo user wrote. Several drew parallels to the wave of xenophobia and violence Asians overseas faced at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This is a bit like when the pandemic began when some people overseas avoided any Chinese people they saw out of fear,” a Weibo user wrote. “I don’t believe these two things have any scientific basis, they are too broad and will exacerbate public panic.”

The United States, when the monkeypox first broke out, advised travelers not to touch other’s genital lesions while on public transportation.

CDC Issues “Alert Level 2” For Monkeypox

The CDC lists several things that travelers should avoid. One is “Close contact with sick people, including those with skin lesions or genital lesions.” So, if you are in the habit of touching other people’s lesions while you are traveling, stop it. Of course, this is probably something that you should avoid doing at any time, even when you are not traveling and even when there isn’t a monkeypox outbreak. -Forbes

Monkeypox spreads through close contact, according to the U.S. CDC. That includes direct physical contact with lesions or rashes from monkeypox patients, touching objects patients have used, “respiratory secretions” shared through face-to-face interaction, or sexual contact.

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