#NewsBytesExplainer: Is monkeypox the next epidemic India should worry about?
With the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring monkeypox a "global public health emergency," many are now wondering if it will be the next epidemic India should worry about. The arrival of monkeypox has triggered health authorities to install surveillance systems and impose a high alert in several states, especially after India reported its fourth case: a 34-year-old Delhi man with no foreign travel history.
Why does this story matter?
The WHO said the rapidly spreading cases of monkeypox were "a matter of concern." WHO officials in South-East Asia appealed to nations to strengthen surveillance and enhance public health measures as the global cases reportedly rose to 17,000. The cases come a year after a deadly second COVID-19 wave led to the death of millions of Indians due to a lack of health infrastructure.
Monkeypox cases in India
India has reported four cases of the virus, three from Kerala and one from New Delhi. While the patients in Kerala reportedly contracted the virus in the Middle East, the case in Delhi does not have any history of foreign travel and was reportedly infected during a stag party in Himachal Pradesh's Manali. Both the states have responded by strengthening public health measures.
Is monkeypox a new disease?
The first human monkeypox case was identified in 1970 in Congo, while the first outbreak outside Africa was reported in the US in 2003. While the WHO has sounded its highest-level alarm, it also hinted at the possibility of curtailing the virus. As the cases are concentrated among gay men, monkeypox can be curtailed by focusing on at-risk populations, said a senior WHO official.
How does monkeypox spread?
Monkeypox spreads via "close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets, and contaminated materials such as bedding." A large number of cases have been reported from sexual health clinics. A London-based study showed that 98% of the surveyed persons infected with monkeypox were gay, and 95% of the transmissions happened through sexual activity. However, it's still not clear if the virus is transmitted sexually.
Will monkeypox spread as fast as COVID-19?
Monkeypox virus won't "spread like wildfire," Dr. Nivedita Gupta, head of virology at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), earlier told News18. Since monkeypox needs face-to-face contact for respiratory droplets to be transmitted, it won't spread as swiftly as COVID-19, opine experts. The WHO must declare it as a sexually transmitted infection (STI), infectious diseases expert Dr. Ishwar Gilada told The Indian Express.
What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
The symptoms of monkeypox last 2-4 weeks, and its mortality rate ranges between 0-11%. After the incubation period (5-21 days), fever, rash, severe headache, backache, muscle aches (myalgia), intense asthenia (lack of energy), and swollen lymph nodes kick in. Apart from the face, rashes affect the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, oral mucous membranes, genitalia, conjunctivae, and cornea.
How can monkeypox be eradicated?
Since the virus belongs to the family of orthopoxviruses, it can be eradicated with the help of the smallpox vaccine, say experts. The WHO says that the vaccine that eradicated smallpox has been found to be 85% effective against monkeypox, too. The US, with over 2,800 cases of monkeypox, is currently using two smallpox vaccines—namely Jynneos and ACAM2000—to bring the disease under control.