India

‘Monkeypox virus has evolved’

r. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region

r. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Cases of monkeypox are being reported from multiple countries and many of them have not seen cases of the virus before, said Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region, on Monday, adding that genomic studies have revealed that the monkeypox virus seems to have changed over recent years.

‘’More studies are needed to understand the evolution. WHO is regularly reviewing available data with its laboratory and other expert groups,’’ she said.

Dr. Poonam further elaborated that the ‘‘unexpected appearance of this disease globally and in a wide geographic area indicates that the disease may have been circulating below the detection of the surveillance systems. It is possible that sustained human-to-human transmission through close contact - direct or indirect - has remained undetected for a period of time.”

Moderate risk

“The risk of monkeypox globally and in the WHO South-East Asia Region is assessed as moderate considering this is the first time that monkeypox cases and clusters are reported concurrently in many countries in widely disparate WHO geographical areas, balanced against the fact that mortality has remained low in the current outbreak,’’ she said.

Speaking about the measures India should take for prevention and control of monkeypox, the regional director noted that in the current outbreak, transmission appears to be occurring primarily through close physical contact, including sexual contact.

“Unexpected appearance of this disease globally and in a wide geographic area indicates that the disease may have been circulating below the detection of the surveillance systems. It is possible that sustained human-to-human transmission through close contact - direct or indirect - has remained undetected for a period of time”Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region

Transmission can also occur from contaminated materials such as linens, bedding, clothing that have infectious skin particles. There are still many unknowns about the virus.

Stating that engaging and protecting the affected communities; intensifying surveillance and public health measures; strengthening clinical management and infection prevention and control in hospitals and clinics; and accelerating research into the use of vaccines, therapeutics and other tools, are among the key response measures, Dr. Poonam said that “we need to stay alert and be prepared to roll out an intense response to curtail spread of monkeypox. And while doing this, our efforts and measures should be sensitive, and devoid of stigma and discrimination.”

WHO has noted that newborns, children and people with underlying immune deficiencies may be at risk of more serious symptoms and death from monkeypox.

Health workers are also at higher risk due to longer virus exposure. “There is no sufficient data regarding monkeypox infection during pregnancy, although limited data suggest that it may lead to adverse outcomes for the foetus,’’ said Dr. Poonam.


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Printable version | Jul 28, 2022 2:19:24 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/monkeypox-cases-reported-from-multiple-countries-that-have-not-seen-cases-before-dr-poonam-singh/article65682924.ece