Japan has confirmed its first case of monkeypox in a Tokyo resident in his 30s who recently traveled to Europe.
The man stayed in Europe from late June to mid-July and came into contact with a monkeypox patient during that time, the health ministry said on July 25.
After returning to Japan, the man developed fever, rashes and headaches and felt tired. He went to a medical facility on July 25 and tested positive for monkeypox virus.
The man is currently being treated at a Tokyo hospital and his condition is stable, according to the ministry.
Health officials are investigating whether anyone has come into close contact with him. The ministry did not disclose the nationality of the man.
At a July 26 press conference, Health Minister Shigeyuki Goto urged the public not to panic as the impact of the first confirmed case of monkeypox on the country’s health system is limited at this stage.
“It won’t immediately lead to a big outbreak like the novel coronavirus did,” he said.
Goto earlier met with officials from relevant government departments and agencies to discuss responses to the first case of monkeypox.
Officials agreed they would do everything possible to treat the patient, identify his close contacts and take other measures to prevent further spread of the virus. They also decided to highlight the difference between monkeypox and COVID-19 when informing the public about the infection situation.
Participants confirmed that they would allow researchers to administer smallpox vaccines and drugs believed to be equally effective against monkeypox to participants in their clinical trials across the country.
Officials also agreed they would quickly decide whether to allow “high-risk” people who come into contact with people infected with the monkeypox virus to be vaccinated in advance.
Under the National Infectious Disease Prevention Act, monkeypox is designated as a class 4 infectious disease, along with rabies. The law requires doctors to report any case they have diagnosed as monkeypox to a public health center.
The monkeypox virus is transmitted to humans mainly through contact with animals that carry the virus. Human-to-human transmission is considered rare, but can occur through contact with patients’ body fluids and blood.
Cases of monkeypox have been increasing, mainly in the United States and Europe, since May. Many patients have mild symptoms and have recovered from the viral illness.
On July 23, the World Health Organization declared the current outbreak of monkeypox a “public health emergency of international concern.”
The Japanese government has convened a meeting of relevant government ministries and agencies on July 25. The participants agreed to prepare to set up a system to carry out tests and treat patients in the event of an epidemic.
On the same day, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued an overseas travel warning urging travelers to exercise extra caution regarding monkeypox.
The warning, the lowest “Level 1” on a 4-scale system, applies to travel to all countries and regions.