Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote to all the states and Union Territories, reiterating the guidelines which were first released in May. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 3,413 laboratory-confirmed cases of monkeypox and one death have been reported in 50 countries.
The guidelines released by the health ministry in May state that a person can be suspected to have the infection if he/she has traveled to the affected countries in the last 21 days and has an unexplained rash. A person with a travel history to the affected countries must also look for symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes, fever, headache, body ache, and profound weakness.
The case will be confirmed after a polymerase chain reaction or PCR test (similar to the one for Covid-19) or sequencing of the genetic material is conducted. All the clinical specimens should be transported to the Apex Laboratory of ICMR-NIV (Pune) routed through the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) network of the respective district/State, the guidelines stated.
The ministry urged IDSP – a network that tracks infectious diseases in the country – to remain on alert about the cases along keeping a track of health facilities, especially skin clinics, clinics for sexually transmitted diseases, medicine clinics, and pediatrics clinics.
“Even one case of monkeypox is to be considered as an outbreak. A detailed investigation by the Rapid Response Teams needs to be initiated through IDSP,” the guidelines state.
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If any traveler returns from the affected countries and develops any symptoms within 21 days, his/her sample must be collected, according to the guideline. The contacts of any confirmed case are to be monitored for 21 days, with samples being collected in case of any symptoms.
Asymptomatic contacts must not donate blood, cells, tissue, organs, or semen during the period of isolation. Any pre-school student who is a contact must not attend daycare, nursery, or other group settings, according to the guidelines.
Monkeypox cases have been reported in the US, United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Australia, Russia, Canada, Austria, Israel and Switzerland, among others. This is in addition to countries such as Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, where the disease is endemic.
On Thursday, the Kerala Health Department issued a statement about the first monkeypox case.
“The patient is quite stable, and all the vitals are normal. The primary contacts are identified – his father, mother, taxi driver, auto driver, and 11 passengers of the same flight who were in adjacent seats,” Kerala Health Minister Veena George wrote.
“There is nothing to worry about or to be anxious about. All the steps are being taken and the patient is stable.”
Following India’s first case, the Union Health Ministry said it is working on deploying a multi-disciplinary central team to support the Kerala government in investigating the outbreak and instituting the required health measures to avoid any spread of the disease.
Last month, the World Health Network (WHN) – an independent coalition of scientists “formed as a people’s task force in response to the COVID-19 pandemic” – declared the global monkeypox outbreak a pandemic, urging the WHO to take similar steps.