We live in a globalised world and even a minor event here and there badly affects the whole World. The global supply chains are intertwined in a complex structure beyond normal comprehension. Also, these are strange times when zoonotic viruses are jumping from their original hosts and affecting human health. The viruses which were earlier thought to be impossible to undergo human-to-human transmission are now seemingly a very real threat.
At a time when the World is still struggling with the shocks of the Covid pandemic in the post covid era, the fear of a new pandemic is looming all over the World. Monkeypox which was earlier endemic to few countries is now crossing national borders at a very brisk pace. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), at least 12 countries have reported cases of this very disease.
The total tally of confirmed cases has reached 80 so far while 50 more cases are still pending. The public health agencies in Europe have confirmed cases in the UK, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Sweden. Not just in Europe, the virus has crossed the boundaries of continents and cases have been reported in the American and Australian continents.
What is Monkeypox, its origin, severity and other facts about it?
Monkeypox belongs to the family of poxviruses, which includes smallpox. The disease got its name after scientists discovered it among laboratory monkeys in 1958. The first monkeypox case in humans was diagnosed in 1970. The concentration of these virus affected cases earlier had been only in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria. According to US experts, all the cases currently hint at virus strains of the West African clade. This West African clade is much weaker than the Congo Basin clade. According to the WHO, around 1 per cent of people who contract the West African clade die with a stark contrast of 10% to that of the Congo Basin clade.
Is it contagious and how does it spread from person to person?
Monkeypox can be transmitted from an infected animal to a human. Animals like rodents and primates can act as a host for spreading this disease. According to the WHO, People with monkeypox are infectious while they have symptoms (normally for between two and four weeks). You can catch monkeypox through close physical contact with someone who has symptoms. The rash, bodily fluids (such as fluid, pus or blood from skin lesions) and scabs are particularly infectious. Clothing, bedding, towels or objects like eating utensils/dishes that have been contaminated with the virus from contact with an infected person can also infect others.
Read More: Dear WHO, What are you up to?
Monkeypox symptoms, precautions and possible cure if any?
Symptoms of monkeypox typically include a fever, intense headache, muscle aches, back pain, low energy, swollen lymph nodes and a skin rash or lesions. Rashes reportedly develop within one to three days of the start of fever. Lesions can be flat or slightly raised, filled with clear or yellowish fluid. The rash can develop on the face, palms, soles of the feet, genitals and eyes. Symptoms last for two to four weeks and go away on their own without any treatment.
To reduce risk, one should limit contact with people who have suspected or confirmed monkeypox. While in many cases symptoms go away on their own, in some cases it may lead to medical complications and even death. Newborn babies and people with underlying diseases or weak immune systems are at a much higher risk of death because of it.
No treatment is required for monkeypox symptoms and only proper care is needed for it. Still, some vaccines that are available for the prevention of smallpox can provide some protection from monkeypox. The rashes should be dried if possible or covered with a moist dressing. It is heartening to learn that currently the WHO weighs a low risk to the general public because of this.
Is it cause of worry for India, the possible remedies and the way forward?
Currently, India is safe from this disease and the government is keeping a close vigil on it. As per PTI, the Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya has directed the National Centre for Disease Control and the ICMR to closely monitor the situation. The ministry has also directed airport and port health officers to remain vigilant. Furthermore, India is upgrading its health infrastructure at a rapid pace and focusing on holistic health care through Yoga and AYUSH.
With increasing globalisation, the risk of more and more such diseases (with the potential to cause pandemics) will keep on increasing. Further, this trend of zoonotic diseases jumping into humans doesn’t present a rosy picture in the future and the only deterrence to it will be strong health infrastructure, resilient supply chains and precautions against infectious diseases.