A senior Chinese official on Saturday warned people to avoid physical contact with foreigners so as to prevent getting the monkeypox infection.

Wu Zunyou, the chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, issued the warning as China reported its first case of monkeypox.

"To prevent possible monkeypox infection and as part of our healthy lifestyle, it is recommended that 1) you do not have direct skin-to-skin contact with foreigners," he said in a statement posted on his official Weibo page.

He asked people to also avoid "skin-to-skin contact" with people who had been abroad in the last three weeks. "It is necessary and very important to strengthen the surveillance and prevention of monkeypox epidemic at the social level," he wrote.

His post was not appreciated by social media users, with many claiming that it was almost like the discrimination that Asians face in other countries.

"This is a bit like when the pandemic began, when some people overseas avoided any Chinese people they saw out of fear," a Weibo user wrote. The comments section under Wu's initial post was disabled on Sunday.

The first case of monkeypox in China was recorded in the southwestern city of Chongqing. The infection was discovered in a person who had recently returned from abroad.

The person was put in quarantine soon after arrival, and all who were in contact with him were isolated, per a report in The Guardian.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared monkeypox as a public health emergency as cases have now been reported in around 90 countries. More than 60,000 cases of monkeypox infection have been reported from across the world so far.

Countries like the US, the UK, Mexico, Argentina, Australia, the UAE, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Italy, India, and Sweden have reported monkeypox infections.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has urged people to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact health services if they notice anything.

Monkeypox is an infectious disease that is usually mild and is generally found in countries like Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nigeria. It is spread by close contact and is not as transmissible as COVID-19.

The virus can spread through close physical contact with someone who has symptoms. Clothing, bedding, and towels that have been contaminated with the virus from contact with an infected person can also transmit the virus.

It can most easily spread during intimate contact, including kissing, touching, or oral and penetrative sex with someone. According to the WHO, monkeypox rashes can resemble some sexually transmitted diseases, including herpes and syphilis.

A doctor checks on a patient with sores caused by monkeypox
A doctor checks on a patient with sores caused by monkeypox