A monkeypox task force has been formed to closely monitor the emerging situation in the country and decide on response initiatives to combat the spread of the disease, official sources said on Monday.
It will also advise the government on expanding diagnostic facilities in the country and explore emerging trends related to vaccination against the disease, the sources told PTI. A 22-year-old man, who recently returned to Kerala from the United Arab Emirates, reportedly died of monkeypox on Saturday. India has reported a total of four cases of the disease so far.
The decision to form the task force was taken at a high-level meeting held on July 26 at the level of the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister to review the ongoing public health preparedness in the country.
The working group will be led by Dr. VK Paul, member of NITI Aayog (health). The National AIDS Control Organization and the General Directorate of Health Services of the Ministry of Health were asked to work on a targeted communication strategy to promote early notification, case detection and case management, said indicated an official source.
Instructions were given to operationalize the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) laboratory network and arrange for the required monkeypox diagnostics. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared monkeypox a global public health emergency of international concern.
Globally, more than 16,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in 75 countries. The Union Department of Health has undertaken a number of initiatives including strengthening health screening at points of entry and operationalizing 15 laboratories under the ICMR to undertake smallpox testing of the monkey.
It has also issued comprehensive guidelines on the disease covering both public health and clinical management aspects and regular interaction with states has taken place virtually as well as central multidisciplinary teams have been deployed to affected states.
According to the WHO, monkeypox is a viral zoonosis – a virus transmitted to humans from animals – with symptoms similar to smallpox although clinically less severe. Monkeypox usually manifests with fever, rashes, and swollen lymph nodes and can lead to various medical complications. It is usually a self-limiting disease with symptoms lasting two to four weeks.
The “Guidelines for the Management of Monkeypox” published by the Center states that human-to-human transmission occurs primarily through large respiratory droplets generally requiring prolonged close contact.
It can also be transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids or lesions, and through indirect contact with lesion material, such as through contaminated clothing or linens of an infected person. Animal-to-human transmission can occur by biting or scratching infected animals or by preparing bushmeat.
The incubation period is typically six to 13 days, and the case fatality rate of monkeypox has historically reached 11% in the general population and higher in children. Lately, the case fatality rate has been around three to six percent.
Symptoms include lesions that usually begin within one to three days of the onset of fever, last about two to four weeks, and are often described as painful until the healing phase when they become itchy. A noticeable predilection for the palms and soles of the feet is characteristic of monkeypox, according to the guidelines.
(With PTI inputs)