Kerala reports India’s first confirmed monkeypox case

Man who arrived in Thiruvananthapuram from UAE tests positive

July 14, 2022 08:19 pm | Updated July 15, 2022 12:45 am IST - Thiruvananthapuram

Test tubes labeled Monkeypox virus positive and negative are seen in this illustration image.

Test tubes labeled Monkeypox virus positive and negative are seen in this illustration image. | Photo Credit: Reuters

The first known lab-confirmed case of monkeypox in India — the official declaration should come from the Union Health Ministry — has been reported in a 35-year-old male in Kerala, who reached the State capital three days ago from the UAE.

State Health Minister Veena George, who earlier on Thursday informed media about a possible suspected case of monkeypox, said here at 7 p.m. that the National Institute of Virology, Pune had confirmed the disease.

The person, a Kollam native, has been isolated for treatment at the Thiruvananthapuram Government Medical College Hospital (MCH). His condition was stable, though he seemed very anxious.

He had first consulted a private hospital at Kollam after he developed fever and other symptoms. He himself volunteered the information that a close contact of his in the UAE had been confirmed as having contracted monkeypox. He was referred to the MCH here.

Close contacts isolated

His close contacts — father and mother — have also been isolated at the same hospital. Ms. George said a few other persons who might qualify as contacts — the driver who took the person from the airport to his home at Kollam, the driver of the autorickshaw in which he travelled to the private hospital, the healthcare personnel who attended to him at the first hospital as well as 11 persons who had occupied the seats near him on his flight from the UAE — have all been informed about the new development . They will also have to go into isolation and monitoring for the next 21 days.

Ms. George said that according to the patient, he had travelled on flight wearing the face mask and that he was wearing clothes that fully covered him.

She said the disease spreads from person to person only through close contact and that there was no need to unleash panic among the public at this point in time.

The Kerala Health department has taken all precautions to ensure that the infection does not spread outside the circle of close contacts. The COVID-19 graph in the State has been up since the past one month and hence mask mandates are in place and health workers are also habituated to the use of PPE kits before attending to patients, thus minimising the risk of spread, Ms. George said.

However, all districts have been asked to enhance disease surveillance in the field and to be on the lookout for any fever with unusual symptoms

Incubation period of monkeypox

Monkeypox initially presents like any tropical disease with fever, headache, joint ache and possible swelling of the lymph glands. The incubation period for the disease — the time from exposure to the virus to the manifestation of symptoms — ranges from five to 21 days.

Rashes appear on the face, inside palms and the body 1-4 days after fever. The course of the disease could last from two-four weeks, during which time the rashes progress into pustules, vesicular lesions and scabs.

Transmission happens only through close contact and by touching or sharing the clothes or bedding used by the patient, because the lesions usually have a high viral load. Transmission also extends throughout the course of the illness, till the lesions heal.

With almost all districts in Kerala currently reporting outbreaks of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) in children as well as adults in some cases, it is very likely that fever with rashes could be mistaken for monkeypox by the general public, unleashing panic.

At the same time, since one cannot entirely rule out that there are no other cases of monkeypox in the community, anyone developing fever and rashes should seek medical care immediately, Health officials said.

Doctors said the vesicular lesions that appear in the case of monkeypox are very distinctive and easily distinguishable from HFMD.

Ms. George said the Health department had issued guidelines based on the norms issued by the WHO and the Union Health Ministry. The State Rapid Response Team was meeting to discuss the new situation.

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