The Centre has announced screening of all international arrivals at ports and airports for the Monkeypox virus after Kerala reported India’s second case of the disease. Monkeypox has been causing international concern for some weeks now after cases started rising in non-endemic countries in Europe, North America and the Middle East. The disease has long been endemic to certain African nations. In that sense, unlike Covid, this is not a novel virus. That said, it is welcome that GOI is taking precautions at this stage while investigations are underway to explain the recent spurt in Monkeypox cases. If there is one thing that Covid has taught us, it is that one can never be too prepared in such situations. For, there is no telling what trajectory a potential pandemic can take. Thus, it is better to err on the side of caution and have systems ready even if they are not eventually required.
However, let us also not panic here. From all available reports it is clear that the Monkeypox virus doesn’t spread nearly as readily as Covid, is transmitted through body fluids and hence infectious spread is through close contact. Plus, the disease generally has mild symptoms in the infected and is rarely fatal. Moreover, the smallpox vaccine is known to give adequate protection against Monkeypox and is even effective during treatment of the disease.
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Hence, apart from disease surveillance, GOI should map out production of smallpox vaccine in case there is a wider spread of Monkeypox within the general population. Covid highlighted the essence of speed in tackling public health challenges. Adequate readiness should be the mantra in dealing with Monkeypox.
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