Senior health officials advise against touching 'foreigners' after monkeypox breaks loose in China
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One of China's top health officials has warned the public about touching 'foreigners' after a case of monkeypox 'slipped through the net' in the south-west city of Chongqing.
The health advice comes one day after China had its first confirmed case of the contagious disease.
Taking to Chinese social media platform Weibo on September 17, Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention Chief Epidemiologist Wu Zunyou revealed it was an 'international arrival' that had brought monkeypox into mainland China.
"It is necessary and important to strengthen the monitoring and prevention of monkeypox,” Wu said in his Weibo post.
He stressed that the disease spreads via skin-to-skin contact before handing down five recommendations for the public.
"To prevent possible monkeypox infections, and as part of our daily healthy lifestyle, [I] advise that one, you don't have skin-to-skin contact with foreigners; and two, you don't have skin-to-skin contact with people who have returned from abroad [in the past three weeks]," the chief epidemiologist said.
He also recommended people use disposable toilet covers if they need to use public restrooms or in hotels.
The post prompted major backlash on social media, with many labelling Wu's comments as 'racist'.
One Weibo user wrote, as per the South China Morning Post: "How racist is this? What about the ones like me who have been living in China for almost 10 years and we haven’t seen our families in like 3-4 years due to the borders being closed."
Another commenter compared Wu's advice to the initial fears some people had in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Another said: "This is a bit like when the pandemic began, when some people overseas avoided any Chinese people they saw out of fear. I don’t believe these two things have any scientific basis, they are too broad and will exacerbate public panic."
Others spoke out in support of Wu's advice: "It’s good to open the country’s door, but we can’t just let everything in."
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) there have been 60,320 laboratory confirmed cases of monkeypox across the globe and 23 deaths.
The disease is not as contagious as the coronavirus, with Australia's chief medical officer Paul Kelly revealing that, in most cases, symptoms are 'relatively mild'.
"Monkeypox's rash and flu-like symptoms are, in most cases, resolve themselves within two to four weeks without the need for specific treatments," Professor Kelly said.
"The rash usually occurs on the face before spreading to other parts of the body, including the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.
"However, in this outbreak it is being seen especially on the genital and perianal regions of affected people.
"The rash can vary from person to person and take on the appearance of pimples, blisters or sores.
"The flu-like symptoms often include fever, chills, body aches, headaches, swollen lymph nodes and tiredness."