China has decided to manage monkeypox as a Class B infectious disease starting from Wednesday as the country reported about 500 cases last month, including its first infections detected in women, according to health authorities.
Class B infectious diseases in China also include COVID-19, AIDS, severe acute respiratory syndrome and rabies.
The National Health Commission said in a statement released on Friday that monkeypox used to mainly spread throughout Central Africa and West Africa, but since May last year, more than 100 countries and regions have reported monkeypox outbreaks, with a mortality rate of 0.1 percent.
China registered its first imported monkeypox case in September last year, and began experiencing domestic outbreaks in June of this year. So far, more than 20 provincial-level regions have reported monkeypox infections as the virus triggers domestic and stealth transmission.
"Considering that the monkeypox epidemic will exist in the country continuously for some period, the commission will designate and manage it as a Class B contagious disease in accordance with the law, so as to better roll out prevention and control measures and protect the safety and health of people," it said.
Li Tongzeng, an infectious disease doctor at Beijing YouAn Hospital affiliated to the Capital Medical University, said that it is important to clarify the management category of monkeypox as more and more regions are detecting new infections.
"Some regions have decided to quarantine new infections at designated medical institutions, while some patients who only have mild symptoms prefer isolation at home," he said. "Now, local governments can abide by uniform protocols."
Under the new designation, Li said that confirmed or suspicious cases, close contacts, as well as health institutions, medical staff and governments all bear the responsibility to prevent further spread of the virus and they will be held accountable if found violating regulations.
Li added that China had registered over 1,000 local infections and female patients were detected for the first time last month. "The emergence of cases infected through heterosexual sex means that sporadic cases will continue to occur in the future and it will be quite difficult to eliminate infections in the short term," he said.
Monkeypox is primarily transmitted among men who have sex with men.
According to data released by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, China reported 501 domestic monkeypox infections, compared with 491 in July and around 110 in June. No severe cases or related deaths have been reported in the country.
The China CDC said that in August, nearly 99 percent of infections are men and 92.5 percent of them are men who have sex with men.
"The five female cases all had sexual contact with men within 21 days before the onset of the disease. Three of their heterosexual partners were also infected with monkeypox, one partner had rashes recently and the remaining one had no related symptoms," it said.
The China CDC added that the primary mode of transmission remains sexual contact and most patients were discovered when they sought medical consultation.
Zhao Wei, a professor at Southern Medical University's School of Public Health, said during an interview with People's Daily that for most people, the risk of monkeypox infection is very low and the possibility of seeing widespread transmission of the virus among females is very low.