By Joori Roh
SEOUL – South Korea on Wednesday confirmed its first case of monkeypox virus and pledged to strengthen monitoring and response systems as it raised the alert level to “caution” for the infectious disease.
A Korean citizen, who is receiving treatment at the Incheon Medical Center after showing symptoms while entering the country from Germany on Tuesday afternoon, has tested positive, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said. It did not provide details of the individual.
The agency raised the alert level for the infectious disease to “caution”, the second of the country’s four levels, upon confirmation of the virus case.
It said it will step up monitoring by designating areas that require strengthened quarantine management, mainly among people from countries where monkeypox occurs frequently.
“The KDCA has been pushing for utilising secured (monkeypox) vaccines and treatments … and additional introduction of those, while the agency is continuously expanding its diagnostic testing capabilities,” KDCA Commissioner Peck Kyong-ran said.
“Among those who have been exposed (to monkeypox virus) through physical contact with confirmed patients, those with medium or high risks will receive vaccination under their consent,” Peck said.
The country, however, is not currently reviewing ring vaccination for monkeypox, she added.
Earlier on Wednesday, KDCA reported two suspected cases of monkeypox virus, but the other case, a foreign national who entered the country on Monday after showing symptoms of blisters and sore throat, tested negative. The agency said this patient was diagnosed with another disease without giving details.
Separately on Wednesday, President Yoon Suk-yeol ordered health authority to “step up quarantine management of foreign entrants at airports … and to be fully prepared to distribute vaccines and treatments to the medical field.”
Yoon also ordered to swiftly complete the introduction of third-generation vaccines and antiviral drugs for monkeypox.
Earlier in June, South Korea designated monkeypox as a second-degree infectious disease, according to its four-tier system, with 22 contagious diseases including COVID-19, cholera and chickenpox being included in the same category.
(Reporting by Joori Roh; editing by Richard Pullin and Michael Perry)