Kerala health officials baffled as man suspected to have contracted monkeypox

Updated on Aug 01, 2022 02:12 AM IST

A senior official of the Kozhikode airport said it was really baffling how he jumped the screening and thermal test at the airport. After the first monkey pox case was reported in the country on July 12, also a returnee from the UAE in Kollam in south Kerala, screening of passengers in all four airports had been intensified

A 22-year-old man who died in Thrissur on Saturday had tested positive for monkey pox in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (HT PHOTO.)
A 22-year-old man who died in Thrissur on Saturday had tested positive for monkey pox in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (HT PHOTO.)

The 22-year-old man who died in Thrissur on Saturday had tested positive for monkey pox in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), said Kerala Health Minister Veena George on Sunday, adding the government will confirm it only after getting swab results from the National Institute of Virology (NIV).

With this, shocking lapses came to light and the health ministry has ordered a probe into them. The minister said relatives of the deceased were told about the medical report from the UAE only after his death on Saturday. She said he came to the country on July 22 and was admitted to a private hospital five days later after he developed high fever.

“We will inquire how he came out of the airport and suppressed his health details like this. We have prepared a detailed route map of the deceased and many people have already been quarantined,” she said adding she has called an emergency meeting of health officials in Thrissur on Monday.

“Monkey pox is not a fatal disease. We have to find out how the death took place. We will also examine why there was a delay in hospitalisation,” said the minister adding doctors told her that he was suffering from some other ailments also. “The strain identified here is not that virulent, but it spreads fast. Since spread of the infection is rapid we have to take precautions,” she said.

One of his relatives, who preferred not to be quoted, said he reached the Kozhikode airport in the early hours of July 22 and three of his friends received him. He travelled to many places in next three days and even played football, he said. He reportedly told his mother and sister about his test in the UAE only after his condition deteriorated. Initially he was admitted to a private hospital in Chavakkad and later shifted to another hospital in Thrissur after his condition deteriorated, he said.

A senior official of the Kozhikode airport said it was really baffling how he jumped the screening and thermal test at the airport. After the first monkey pox case was reported in the country on July 12, also a returnee from the UAE in Kollam in south Kerala, screening of passengers in all four airports had been intensified. He said some people do take tablets to suppress body temperature.

Doctors who treated the deceased said his symptoms were similar to monkey pox. “There were no red marks or blisters when he got admitted. But later such symptoms started appearing on his body. Since he came from the high- risk UAE he was admitted to an isolation ward from the day one,” a doctor who treated him said.

Experts said monkey pox virus mutates at a higher rate but it is treatable after closely observing symptoms. They said the infection starts with fever, headache and flue. As infection turns acute red lesions will appear on the body and triggers itching like chicken pox. They said the incubation period of virus ranges from five to 21 days.

“It is not a fatal but only concern is it has high mutation rate. We have to find out how this young man died. Human to human infection rate is also not that high like Covid-19. Only those who come in close contact with the infected can be transmitted,” said Dr N M Arun, internal medicine and public health expert.

“Isolation is key in containing the disease and all who come in contact with patients will have to take extreme caution. In some African countries there are reports that it spread through animal meat also, so we have to ensure that meat is cooked properly,” said Dr K Bindu, community medicine expert of Kozhikode medical college.

Experts like them said transmission happens only through close contact like touching or sharing the cloth, towel or bed sheets used by the infected as secretion from lesions carry high virus load. Sex with the infected will also transmit and transmission can happen till lesions heal and final stages of healing is critical for transmission like other pox diseases. Experts said small pox vaccine is very effective in containing the disease_ while the vaccine was discontinued after many countries eradicated it some western countries have retrieved it from emergency stockpiles in laboratories. Last week the World Health Organisation had declared a global health emergency over the monkey pox outbreak which was reported from more than 75 countries.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

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