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China plans to manage monkeypox like COVID-19

The National Health Commission of China has announced that it would place monkeypox (mpox) infection management on the same level as COVID-19. 

According to the health authority, monkeypox will be placed under Category B alongside COVID19, SARS, and AIDS. With this designation, the Chinese government will be able to effect emergency measures. These include public gathering restrictions, school suspensions, and closing down public spaces or areas when there’s an outbreak.

These measures are important because China has seen an increase in reported cases in several regions of the country, the NHC said. “Over 20 provinces have reported monkeypox cases in China since the first imported case in September 2022 and the beginning of locally transmitted cases in June 2023, triggering continued outbreaks and ‘hidden’ transmissions.’’

Puzzling decision

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention said on September 8 that China documented only 501 monkeypox cases in August, with no serious cases or fatalities.

China finally downgraded COVID-19 to Category B in 2022 from the top level Category A, three years after strict restrictions were implemented in the country. The government had locked down cities and authorized quarantine for patients and their relatives. 

According to the 2022-2023 Monkeypox Outbreak Global Map, there have been 89,889 laboratory-confirmed monkeypox cases and 150 deaths worldwide between January 2022 and August 2023.

The United States had the highest number of cases and fatalities when monkeypox was an international public health concern. Countries like Argentina, Spain, and Brazil also recorded a relatively significant number of cases.

In May, the World Health Organization declared an end to the monkeypox global health emergency, which makes China’s decision all the more puzzling.

More about monkeypox

Monkeypox, a viral disease, first emerged in 1958 in monkeys kept for research. Scientists discovered the virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1970 when humans contracted it.

Since then, Central and West Africa have reported most cases. Occasionally, outbreaks occur outside this region, such as the current outbreak in China discussed above, but they remain rare.

Symptoms and transmission

Monkeypox mimics smallpox in its presentation. After an incubation period of 6 to 16 days, affected individuals display fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, and swollen lymph nodes. Within a few days, a rash develops, often starting on the face and spreading to other parts of the body.

Humans contract monkeypox through direct contact with infected animals, human-to-human transmission, or contaminated materials. Rodents, such as the Gambian giant rat, serve as primary reservoirs of the virus. The virus also transmits through respiratory droplets, putting healthcare workers at higher risk if they lack proper protective gear.

Diagnosis and treatment

Doctors diagnose monkeypox primarily through patient history and physical examination. Specific laboratory tests can confirm the disease, differentiating it from other conditions like chickenpox.

Currently, no specific treatment for monkeypox exists. Patients receive care to manage and alleviate symptoms. In the event of a large outbreak, the smallpox vaccine can help reduce the risk of monkeypox among healthcare workers and high-risk individuals.


Preventing monkeypox hinges on avoiding contact with infected animals in endemic areas. Regularly cooking meat, wearing protective clothing while handling animals, and practicing good hygiene can minimize the risk of transmission. Health authorities also recommend that travelers to affected regions remain vigilant and follow guidelines to protect themselves.

In summary, while monkeypox remains less deadly and contagious than its cousin, smallpox, the global community must remain informed and prepared. Proper education, early detection, and preventive measures can curb its spread and protect vulnerable populations.

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