Kerala confirms India’s first monkeypox death

Updated on Aug 02, 2022 01:05 AM IST

The country has now reported six cases of monkeypox, after the first was reported from Kerala’s Kollam on July 14.

Noida, India- July 30, 2022: The Noida District Administration built a 10-bed monkeypox ward in the Sector 39 new district hospital in Noida, India, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Sunil Ghosh / Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)
Noida, India- July 30, 2022: The Noida District Administration built a 10-bed monkeypox ward in the Sector 39 new district hospital in Noida, India, on Saturday, July 30, 2022. (Photo by Sunil Ghosh / Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)
By, New Delhi

The Kerala health department on Monday reported India’s first possible monkeypox fatality after the test results of a 22-year-old man, who died on Saturday morning following his return from the United Arab Emirates, returned positive.

State health minister Veena George said the test results of the 22-year-old “showed that the man had monkeypox”, even as the Capital confirmed its second case of the viral disease in a 35-year-old man from Nigeria with no recent history of foreign travel.

The country has now reported six cases of monkeypox, after the first was reported from Kerala’s Kollam on July 14.

Addressing the media on Monday, George said the man’s samples were sent to the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in Alappuzha on July 30, but he had tested positive for the disease in the UAE on July 19.

The man, who hailed from Chavakkad Kuranjiyur in Thrissur district, returned on July 22.

“On the evening of July 26, he developed abnormal jerking and he had fever too. On July 27, he was admitted, and on July 28, he was moved to the ventilator,” George told reporters.

Also read: Monkeypox strain detected in India not linked to Europe outbreak

The minister further said that hospital authorities informed the health department on July 30 that the man underwent a test in UAE on July 19 and had tested positive before his return.

“Our team reached the hospital but unfortunately the person died in the evening. According to our procedure, we sent the samples to National Institute of Virology (NIV) Alappuzha and test results show that he was positive for monkeypox,” George said.

The genome sequencing of his sample is also being conducted at NIV, she said. It remains unclear whether monkeypox was the cause of death.

The state government, meanwhile, has initiated an inquiry into the death and how he reached India despite first testing positive in a foreign country.

“The result of the test conducted in the foreign country was positive. He sought treatment in Thrissur due to severe fatigue and encephalitis and monkeypox is not a fatal disease,” said George on Sunday.

She said they will also examine why there was delay in his hospitalisation after he arrived from the UAE.

“This particular variant of monkeypox is not as highly virulent or contagious like Covid-19, but it does spread. Comparatively, the mortality rate of this variant is low. Therefore, we will examine why the 22-year-old man died in this particular case as he had no other illness or health problems,” the minister said.

The Union health ministry, however, is yet to issue a statement confirming the monkeypox death — possibly Asia’s first of a person suffering from the viral disease.

The Centre on Monday constituted a task force to monitor the situation.

India has reported six cases of monkeypox so far, of which four are from Kerala and two from Delhi.

In the state, health authorities confirmed that 20 people, who came in close contact with the man, have been quarantined and their symptoms are being monitored.

Also read: Delhi reports second monkeypox case, two more isolated with suspected infection

“The situation is well under control, there’s no panic here as of now. The person had direct contact with only 10 people including family members and a few friends. Twenty people quarantined so far,” Renjini, member, education and health standing committee, told PTI.

The deceased’s primary contacts include family members, a domestic help, four friends who picked him up from the airport and nine others he played football with, officials said.

Another 160 people, who travelled to Kerala on the same flight as the man have also been identified, health department officials said.

The department is keeping a close watch on the 15 passengers who returned to Thrissur, but since they did not have any close interaction with the patient, the likelihood of them developing any symptoms is slim, the officials said.

Monkeypox is a viral zoonosis (a virus transmitted to humans from animals) with symptoms similar to those seen in the past in smallpox patients. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), which declared it a public health emergency on July 23, it is clinically less severe than smallpox.

The disease can be transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids or the lesions of the infected person. It can also be spread through indirect contact with lesion material, such as through contaminated clothing or linen.

So far, 75 countries have reported at least 22,000 cases of the infection.

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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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