Amid concerns over monkeypox, Delhi directs all hospitals to be on alert

Published on Jun 02, 2022 01:35 AM IST
A day after the Union health ministry issued a detailed set of guidelines to states on the management of the viral disease monkeypox, the Delhi government on Wednesday directed all government hospitals to be on alert for any early symptoms of the disease and to ensure prompt reporting
According to World Health Organisation, since May 13, 2022, monkeypox has been reported to it from at least 23 countries that are not endemic for the virus. (REUTERS)(HT_PRINT)
According to World Health Organisation, since May 13, 2022, monkeypox has been reported to it from at least 23 countries that are not endemic for the virus. (REUTERS)(HT_PRINT)
By, New Delhi

A day after the Union health ministry issued a detailed set of guidelines to states on the management of the viral disease monkeypox, the Delhi government on Wednesday directed all government hospitals to be on alert for any early symptoms of the disease and to ensure prompt reporting.

Senior officials of Delhi’s health department said even though India is yet to report any monkeypox case, the national capital is at a higher risk of witnessing the disease because of the high influx of international travellers. Delhi being an important transit point to other parts of the country also makes it vulnerable to an outbreak.

Monkeypox is a viral zoonosis (a virus transmitted to humans from animals) with symptoms similar to those seen in the past in smallpox patients, although, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is clinically less severe than smallpox. Currently, the infection has been detected in at least 23 countries and its most common symptoms include fever, headache, muscle ache and rashes on the face, palms or soles and genitals.

On Tuesday, the Union health ministry issued guidelines asking the passengers arriving from the disease-affected countries or those in contact with a positive patient in the past 21 days to consult a health facility if they develop symptoms. The ministry also directed district surveillance units to consider even a single case of monkeypox as an “outbreak” and initiate a detailed investigation.

For the early detection and containment of monkeypox, the Delhi government has directed that all districts be on alert and follow the guidelines issued by the centre.

“The authorities are already keeping a close tab on international travellers at airports, but the challenge in Delhi is that people from all states come here and many might have landed from abroad at other airports and are passing through Delhi to reach their final destinations. We have alerted hospitals to keep a close tab on anyone reporting any symptom of the disease and ensure that it is reported immediately,” said a senior health department official, asking not to be named.

The directions issued on Wednesday to hospitals said patients, especially those with a travel history, showing signs of acute rash, swollen lymph nodes, fever, headache, body aches or weakness need to be identified as a suspected case of monkeypox, a virus in the same family as the smallpox virus. For all such patients, probable links to viral exposure need to be studied and samples need to be sent immediately for polymerase chain reaction testing.

Apart from hospitals, district administrations have also been alerted to keep their resources ready for contact tracing and isolating patients in case an infection is reported in the capital.

A standardised “case reporting form” has been circulated to hospitals and districts, which would require them to list all details of the suspected patient, people who have been in touch with the suspected patient, his/her symptoms and medical history.

Dr Suresh Kumar, medical director at the Delhi government’s Lok Nayak Hospital, said they are yet to officially receive the new guidelines from the Union government but the hospital has been following utmost precaution and vigilance to deal with patients whose symptoms resemble those of monkeypox.

“We have seen the Centre’s guidelines and have verbally received directions to be vigilant, but we are yet to receive the official copy of the order. We are, however, on alert,” said Dr Kumar.

Dr Satish Koul, director (internal medicine), Fortis Memorial Hospital, said monkeypox is “not as contagious as Covid-19” and since it is not a novel virus, countries are much better prepared to handle it.

“The countries where monkeypox cases are being reported, are those where the movement of people from the African continent is more. People born before 1980 are vaccinated against smallpox and since monkeypox also belongs to the same family, these people will have some level of protection against the infection,” said Dr Koul.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Soumya Pillai covers environment and traffic in Delhi. A journalist for three years, she has grown up in and with Delhi, which is often reflected in the stories she does about life in the city. She also enjoys writing on social innovations.

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