The Centre rushed a high-level multi-disciplinary team to Kerala on Thursday to collaborate with state authorities in implementing public health measures after the first confirmed case of monkeypox in the country was detected in Kollam district.
Kerala Health Minister Veena George said the infection was diagnosed in a 35-year-old man who had returned from the UAE this week. The infected person is believed to have come in contact with another confirmed case in the emirates, George said.
Since January this year, multiple cases of monkeypox have been identified in over 50 countries. The case in India was confirmed after samples were tested at the National Institute of Virology in Pune, said the Minister.
“The confirmed case, a native of Kollam, has been isolated after he developed symptoms of the disease. He has been admitted to an isolated facility at the Government Medical College in Thiruvananthapuram. Eleven persons, who have been in touch with the infected person on his return from the UAE on July 12, have been identified as contacts and are under observation,” George said.
Officials said the infection is at an early stage and the patient’s condition is stable.
Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic disease with symptoms similar to smallpox, although with less clinical severity. According to the WHO, it is usually a self-limited disease with symptoms lasting two-four weeks. In recent times, officials said, the case fatality ratio has been around three-six per cent.
The virus is transmitted through close contact with another infected person or animal, and spreads from lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding.
The symptoms can include fever, headache, muscle ache and backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion, and rashes that can look like pimples or blisters on the face, inside the mouth and other parts of the body.
According to official data, most of these cases are from the European region (86 per cent) and the Americas (11 per cent). Monkeypox is endemic to West and Central African countries, such as Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The US also witnessed an outbreak in 2003, when 47 confirmed or probable cases were reported.
According to the Union Health Ministry, the Central team comprises experts from National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and RML Hospital in Delhi, and senior officials from the Ministry and experts from Regional Office of Health & Family Welfare in Kerala.
“The team shall work closely with the State Health Departments and take stock of on-ground situations and recommend necessary public health interventions. Govt of India is taking proactive steps by monitoring the situation carefully and coordinating with states in case of any such possibility of outbreak,’’ it said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote to all states reiterating the guidelines that were first released in May.
Bhushan asked the states to orient key stakeholders, including screening teams at points of entry such as airports and surveillance teams, on contact-tracing and other activities needed once a case is detected — and doctors on common symptoms and definition of a suspected or confirmed case.
Bhushan further asked the states to undertake screening and testing of suspect cases at points of entry as well as in the community. He told them to identify hospitals and ensure logistics support to manage cases.
“Patient isolation (until all lesions have resolved and scabs have completely fallen off), protection of ulcers, symptomatic and supportive therapies, continued monitoring and timely treatment of complications remain the key measures to prevent mortality,” Bhushan wrote.
(With ENS/New Delhi)