General alert sounded against monkey pox

Even as no case of monkey pox, a close cousin of small pox which shows up as fever, body ache and very distinct skin lesions, is yet to be reported in the country, the State Health department has sounded a general alert on the disease.

The Health department convened a meeting and sounded an alert on monkey pox to districts, following an advisory of the Union Health Ministry. The latter issued the alert as monkey pox seemed to have spread from many countries in Europe to the U.S. in the past few days, with cases being brought in through international travel.

“We have sounded a general alert to districts to augment disease surveillance and to be alert in the field as to any unusual disease presentations. The disease seems to have been imported to all nations in the West through international travel and as a State with four international airports and good tourist traffic, Kerala needs to be on guard against all new diseases. However, as of now, the Union Health Ministry has not issued any directions regarding airport surveillance by States,” a senior Health official said.

The Centre has, however, initiated surveillance of international airport arrivals and Health officials have been asked to watch out for any symptoms (fever, chills, body ache, lesions on skin) in passengers and to isolate them. The blood samples are to be sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune.

Monkey pox causes many general symptoms of flu, including fever and headache. But the disease is often distinguished by the lesions that appear on the face a few days after fever, and which spreads to the body, especially the palms. The incubation period for the disease - the time from exposure to the virus to then manifestation of symptoms - ranges from five to 21 days.

Transmission happens only through close contact and by touching or sharing the clothes or bedding used by the patient, because the lesions are full of viruses. Transmission can last throughout the course of the illness, till the lesions heal.

As monkey pox is closely related to small pox, the only virus to have been eradicated from the world in 1980, respiratory transmission through saliva droplets is a significant possibility.

The disease has been confined largely to Central and West Africa and the only time it was reported outside of Africa was in 2003, when 47 confirmed and probable cases were reported in six States in the U.S. The outbreak was linked to infected exotic pets imported from Ghana, which in turn infected some prairie dogs sold as pets, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Small pox vaccinations were wound up in the 1970s and the virus was declared eradicated in 1980. CDC scientists have suggested that the time that has lapsed after small pox eradication and the lack of inoculation might have weakened the immunity of subsequent generations to this virus.

With over 100 cases reported in 11 countries outside Africa in the past few weeks alone, scientists are looking at reasons for the rapid spread, Nature has reported.

Preliminary genetic data indicates that the circulating strain is predominantly found in Western Africa and that it causes a milder disease. However, it was not yet clear if all the cases reported now are related or if it can be traced to a single origin, it said.

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Printable version | Jul 2, 2022 1:30:50 am |