While the COVID19 pandemic is yet to end, there is another virus that threatens the health and well-being of people around the globe – Monkeypox. The zoonotic viral disease has spread to 12 countries, and there have been over 80 confirmed cases. However, Indians do not need to be worried as no cases have been reported. Nevertheless, it is advisable to take adequate precautions against the infection.
Monkeypox is a virus that belongs to the family of smallpox but is less contagious than smallpox. The first case of monkeypox was diagnosed in the 1970s, while smallpox was eradicated globally in 1980. The virus is endemic to Central and West Africa, and it is less contagious and severe than smallpox. In addition, it is a self-limited disease and can go away without any treatment. In the past fatality rate has varied from 1-10%, although in recent times, the ratio has been around 3-6 per cent. However, there is a possibility that there could be some severe cases, so it is always better to get it checked by a doctor if a person shows any symptoms.
Currently, there are no cases of the virus that have been reported in India. However, the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) are highly alert to track the infection. The authorities are keeping a tab on travellers coming from international destinations and have urged experts to send samples of symptomatic passengers to the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Pune for further investigation. Also, suspected patients will be kept under isolation at Kasturba hospital, and other hospitals in Mumbai are also advised to refer them here. The isolation ward has 28 beds.
An infected person can show symptoms like fever, headache, muscle pain, exhaustion, and swelling of the lymph. Also, one develops rashes typical of monkeypox, which first appear on the face and the rest of the body. The symptoms of the virus last between 14 to 21 days.
The monkeypox virus is contagious. That is why if a person is close to an infected person, it can be passed on by the respiratory droplets, along with bleeding or touching the rashes of the infected person.
Hence, any contact exchange, even sharing clothes or bedding, should be avoided if a person is suspected of carrying the virus.
While there is no proven treatment, only on a doctor’s advice one can take anti-viral medications like Cidofovir etc., along with immunoglobin. However, even this treatment might vary case by case. There are vaccinations against smallpox and monkeypox in the USA, but these are only available for high-risk groups. Vaccination against smallpox was demonstrated through several observational studies to be about 85 per cent effective in preventing monkeypox.
Dr. Kirti Sabnis
Infectious Disease Specialist