Monkeypox: Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan prepare to fight against virus
Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra are reportedly gearing up to prevent monkeypox from entering their territories. Authorities in these states have been on high alert after the recent outbreak of this viral infection—prevalent in West and Central Africa, Europe, and several other parts of the world. Monkeypox cases have so far been reported in 14 countries. Notably, all these countries are "non-endemic" for monkeypox.
- Even as the world is grappling with the COVID-19 outbreak, sporadic incidences of other viruses like monkeypox have become a cause for concern.
- Though monkeypox—said to have its roots in West Africa—belongs to the same family as the smallpox-causing virus, it is less severe with lower infection chances.
- However, cases from Europe and the US are alarming as it's rarely known to spread elsewhere.
Mostly transmitted to humans through animals, monkeypox is a viral zoonotic disease. Most cases of monkeypox infection are found in West and Central Africa. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the monkeypox virus is similar to human smallpox. Although monkeypox is said to be milder than smallpox, with a mortality rate of up to 10%, it can be fatal in some rare cases.
J Radhakrishnan, Health Secretary of Tamil Nadu, has written to all district collectors in the state, urging them to increase surveillance for monkeypox. People who have unexplained rashes, those who have traveled to a part of the world with confirmed/suspected cases of monkeypox in the last 21 days, or those who have had contact with suspected/confirmed monkeypox patients will be monitored, as per reports.
Meanwhile, Mumbai's Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has set up a 28-bed ward facility at Kasturba Hospital for Infectious Diseases in Chinchpokli to isolate suspected monkeypox cases. The beds are reportedly located in the hospital's ward 30. The BMC's public health department on Monday said that there have been no confirmed cases in the city, but medical facilities have been asked to be cautious.
According to the Rajasthan government's advisory, passengers arriving in the state from Europe, Australia, the US, and Canada will be subjected to a screening procedure. If a suspected traveler's report is confirmed for the monkeypox virus, contact tracing will be carried out. Rajasthan's Health Department has been instructed to send the samples of suspected cases to the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune.
Among others, the United States, Australia, Canada, and at least nine European countries have recorded monkeypox cases. The United Kingdom, Portugal, and Spain are among the worst hit countries in Europe, with a tally of confirmed cases ranging between 21 and 30. Other European countries that have reported the disease include Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and Sweden.
The WHO also found 28 suspected cases of monkeypox in non-endemic countries. A suspected case is when a person of any age in a monkeypox non-endemic country presents with an "unexplained acute rash." It often begins on the face and spreads to other parts. Other symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle and body aches, swollen lymph nodes, back pain, profound weakness, etc.
Monkeypox spreads due to "close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets, and contaminated materials such as bedding." A large number of cases have so far been reported from sexual health clinics. "Based on currently available information, cases have mainly but not exclusively been identified amongst men who have sex with other men...seeking care in primary care and sexual health clinics," the WHO said.
The first case of human monkeypox was identified in 1970 in Congo (formerly known as Zaire) in a nine-year-old boy—two years after smallpox had been eradicated from the region. Since then, most cases have been reported from rainforest regions of the Congo Basin. It's considered to be endemic there. However, in 2017—40 years after its last confirmed case—Nigeria witnessed the biggest outbreak to date.
Currently, there's no specific treatment recommended for monkeypox. But the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says monkeypox outbreaks can be controlled with the smallpox vaccine cidofovir—ST-246—and vaccinia immune globulin. However, first-generation smallpox vaccines are no longer available to the public. Notably, in 2019, a new vaccinia-based vaccine was approved for preventing smallpox and monkeypox, but it isn't yet widely available.