Chinese health official's 'discriminatory' warning over monkeypox sparks outrage
A top Chinese health official sparked controversy by issuing a bizarre warning following the detection of the first monkeypox case in mainland China on Saturday. "People shouldn't touch foreigners," stated Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, in a post on China's microblogging website Weibo. His post soon received widespread criticism, with many users terming it "discriminatory."
Why does this story matter?
- The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared monkeypox a "global public health emergency," and the US is reportedly the worst-hit of the 96 affected countries.
- Mostly transmitted to humans from animals, monkeypox is a viral zoonotic disease. It is similar to human smallpox but milder.
- Over 60,000 monkeypox infections have been reported globally so far, with some non-endemic countries registering their first deaths.
What exactly did the Chinese official say?
"Do not have skin-to-skin contact with foreigners," Zunyou urged the public in his cautionary statement on Weibo that included five points of advice. He further stressed the importance of expanding monkeypox surveillance and prevention. Zunyou said there was a huge risk involved if someone travels internationally or has close contact with such people. He also advised people to avoid "skin-to-skin contact" with strangers.
Netizens' reaction to Zunyou's 'controversial' comments
As soon as Zunyou's Weibo post containing recommendations to the public was shared online, it triggered massive outrage. "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.
First monkeypox case reported in Chongqing city
According to reports, the first verified case of monkeypox in mainland China was recorded in Chongqing. It was detected in a person who arrived from abroad. However, officials have yet to reveal if the person is a foreigner or a Chinese citizen. They, however, stated that the individual was quickly quarantined and that his close contacts were also isolated and put under observation.
Scenario of monkeypox outbreak across the world
The WHO says monkeypox is becoming a global threat. It labeled monkeypox a global public health emergency in July after it infected people in over 75 countries. The first case in this outbreak was reported in May. According to estimates, there have been over 60,000 confirmed cases worldwide so far. Some non-endemic nations have reported their first deaths due to the virus, too.
How does monkeypox spread?
According to experts, the monkeypox infection spreads when a person comes into touch with an infected animal, person, or contaminated object. The virus enters the body through broken skin (even if the wound is not visible), the respiratory system, or mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and mouth, according to the US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).