Kerala on Thursday reported India’s first case of monkeypox after a traveller from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) showed symptoms and got admitted to the hospital after arriving four days ago.
His samples, sent to the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune for testing, returned positive today.
State health minister Veena George said earlier in the day that the person subjected himself for treatment after a close contact in the UAE was detected with the zoonotic disease. She said the person has been isolated and kept under close observation.
“There is no need to panic. Experts said treatment is symptomatic and it spreads through close contact of the infected. We will get a clear picture after NIV examination,” she said earlier today, adding that the person has not come into contact with many people since his arrival.
A senior official in the state health department said tests at local laboratories confirmed the presence of virus in the patient, but the samples were sent to NIV to be doubly sure, as is the protocol laid down by the Union health ministry.
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Experts said monkeypox virus mutates at a fast rate, but is treatable once the symptoms start showing. They said the infection starts with fever, headache and flu, but an acute bout of it makes the patient experience red lesions on the body and itchiness like chicken pox. They said the incubation period of the virus ranges from five to 21 days.
“It is not a fatal virus but the only concern is that it has a high mutation rate. Human-to-human infection rate is also not that high like Covid-19. It gets transmitted to only those who come in close contact with the infected,” said Dr NM Arun, a public health expert.
The virus spreads only through close contact such as touching or sharing clothes, towel or bedsheets used by the infected, etc., as the secretion from lesions carries a high viral load. Transmission can happen till lesions heal and the final stage of healing is critical for transmission just like other poxes.
Experts believe a small pox vaccine is very effective in containing this disease. While the vaccine was discontinued after many countries eradicated it, some western countries retrieved it from emergency stockpiles in laboratories.
The World Health Organization has called an emergency meeting next week to discuss whether monkeypox can be declared as a global health malady and create a standard protocol. The disease has so far been reported in 63 countries, primarily in Africa and Europe. The disease was first detected in monkeys in Congo in the 1960s and claimed several lives in Nigeria in 2017, according to world health journals.