Singapore has reported its first case of the rare monkeypox virus brought in by a Nigerian man who authorities said may have been infected by bushmeat he ate at a wedding. Monkeypox, a virus similar to the human smallpox which was eradicated in 1980, does not spread easily from person to person, but can in rare cases be fatal.
Human monkeypox infections have only been documented three times outside of Africa, in the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel, according to the US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a statement late on Thursday that the infected patient was a 38-year-old Nigerian who arrived in Singapore in late April.
“While risk of spread is low, MOH is taking precautions,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that ongoing investigations suggest 23 persons had been identified as being in close contact with the patient while he was in Singapore.
Authorities said prior to his arrival in Singapore the man attended a wedding in Nigeria where he may have eaten bushmeat which could be the source of the virus transmission. Bushmeat, which can be chimpanzee, gorilla, antelope, birds or rodent, is a staple of some African diets.
Monkeypox typically lasts for two to four weeks, starting as a fever and headache and progressing through to small bumps called pustules that spread over the body.
Sporadic human cases of monkeypox have been reported in west and central Africa since the 1970s, and in 2003, the first cases outside of Africa were reported in the United States.
Last September, Britain reported its first cases all linked to travel in Nigeria.