Monkeypox Virus: No Cases Yet, But India Gets Cautious

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By: Joymala Bagchi
Updated: 31 May, 2022 10:16 pm IST

NEW DELHI: There are no cases of monkeypox virus reported in the country, as of May 31. But the Union health ministry is not leaving anything to chance as it issues guidelines with the virus spread to 24 countries including the United States, Europe and African nations.

The lessons from the COVID are coming in handy as the Health Ministry advises that the country be prepared in the event of an increase in cases in non-endemic nations.

In the ‘Guidelines on Management of Monkeypox Disease’ issued to states and union territories (UTs) of the country, the Health Ministry stressed surveillance and rapid identification of new cases as the key public health measures for outbreak containment. The ministry also asked authorities to reduce the risk of human-to-human transmission.

The government issued guidelines directing district surveillance units to consider even one such case as an outbreak and initiate a detailed investigation through the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme.

It also emphasises that the contacts should be monitored at least daily for the onset of signs or symptoms for 21 days (as per case definition) from the last contact with a patient or their contaminated materials during the infectious period.

Along with this raising awareness and educating people also plays a pivotal role as the Ministry has also advised travellers to have close contact with sick people, including those with skin lesions or genital lesions. It also said that they should also avoid contact with dead or live wild animals such as small mammals including rodents (rats, squirrels) and non-human primates (monkeys, apes). Eating or preparing meat from wild game (bushmeat) or using products derived from wild animals from Africa (creams, lotions, powders) must also be avoided, it says.

Monkeypox has been reported as endemic in several central and western African countries including Cameroon, Central African Republic, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo and others.

The virus has also been reported in several other non-endemic countries including the US, UK, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Australia, Canada, Austria, Israel and Switzerland.

“This is a new upcoming virus which is increasing in numbers each day. Tourism is open, people are moving freely assuming covid has plummeted but we are also seeing major western countries are reporting monkeypox,” Dr Anil Arora, chairman, Institute of Liver, Gastroenterology and Pancreaticobiliary Sciences, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.

“As it has already spread in multiple countries, it won’t be a surprise if it lands in the Indian subcontinent. Moreover, we do not have a habit of following the advice of the ministry. Hope it doesn’t spread like the delta that devastated our community,” Dr Arora warned.

In extreme cases such as if the patient is very old or very young, in immunosuppressant, in a compromised state it can be life threatening, says the doctor.

Monkeypox virus travels through contaminated flu, contact with the skin lesions or bodily fluids of the infected, as well as secretion from the blood.

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