Govt bolstered steps to contain monkeypox virus: Mansukh Mandaviya

Published on Aug 02, 2022 11:35 PM IST

Mansukh Mandaviya says the government has relied on the experience of tackling Covid-19, to be alert and prepared in advance to prevent the spread of any disease

Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Mansukh Mandaviya speaks in Rajya Sabha during the Monsoon Session of Parliament, in New Delhi on Tuesday. (ANI)
Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Mansukh Mandaviya speaks in Rajya Sabha during the Monsoon Session of Parliament, in New Delhi on Tuesday. (ANI)

New Delhi: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has successfully isolated the monkeypox virus and an expression of interest has been floated for scientists and research institutions for the development of a vaccine, Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya told Parliament on Tuesday.

The government has relied on the experience of tackling Covid-19, to be alert and prepared in advance to prevent the spread of any disease, he said.

“Monkeypox cases started getting reported around the world in May and the first case in India was reported on July 14 in Kerala, but on May 31 itself, we had circulated a detailed set of guidelines for surveillance, detection and management to states and all airports,” Mandaviya said while replying to queries in Rajya Sabha during Question Hour.

He also informed the House that as of Tuesday, eight cases of monkeypox have been reported in India, of which five were reported from Kerala and the other three from Delhi.

“Out of the eight confirmed cases in India, foreign travel has been traced in five patients,” he said.

The health department of Kerala on Monday also confirmed India’s first monkeypox death, a 22-year-old man from Kerala’s Thrissur district who had returned from the UAE recently and died on July 30.

The minister also informed the members about the various steps being taken to prevent the spread of the disease, and to develop testing kits and vaccines. “A national task force on monkeypox disease has been constituted to monitor the development of diagnostics and vaccines for the management of monkeypox disease,” Mandaviya said in reply to a question on measures and preventive action initiated by the government.

He added that airport and port health officers have been instructed to remain vigilant and undertake rigorous health screening of incoming international passengers.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 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 it is clinically less severe. The UN body has declared monkeypox a “public health emergency of international concern”.

Monkeypox, usually a self-limited disease, manifests itself with fever, rash and swollen lymph nodes and may lead to a range of medical complications. The symptoms last for two to four weeks.

The infection, unlike Covid-19, is not airborne and spreads through close contact with bodily fluids or through contact with the clothes or bed linen of an infected person.

On a question about the government’s plans to vaccinate the younger population, Mandaviya said the ICMR has successfully isolated the monkeypox virus and released an expression of interest inviting researcher bodies, testing kit developers and scientists to use the isolates and develop a vaccine and testing kits in the future.

“Our scientists had done so in the case of Covid-19 too when they isolated the virus, which was eventually used to develop a vaccine. Currently, a smallpox vaccine (Modified Vaccinia) Ankara (MVA) is being used in European countries for the close contacts of monkeypox patients, but there is not enough scientific data to prove its efficacy. The WHO has also said that in the current situation mass vaccination is not required,” he said.

With the disease spreading only through close and deep contacts, he said no specific community is at risk while urging people not to panic. He added that the government has taken up steps to create awareness about common symptoms, reporting of suspected cases and prevention from the disease.

Over 20,000 monkeypox cases have been reported from 75 countries globally.

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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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