India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare will release comprehensive guidelines later this week for the treatment and prevention of monkeypox amid an outbreak of the viral disease with nearly 100 confirmed cases worldwide.
The decision was taken during a meeting held on Monday attended by officials from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), World Health Organization (WHO), National Center for Disease Control (NCDC ), clinicians and the Ministry of Health to solidify standard operating procedures. for travelers who show symptoms of moneypox after returning from affected countries.
The detailed guidelines will include identification of sick patients at airports, laboratory tests, symptoms, prevention, surveillance strategies, notification to hospitals and community outreach. According to the WHO, more than 92 cases have been reported so far in a dozen countries. “We shouldn’t be worried about monkeypox but be vigilant. The Ministry of Health and ICMR are developing monkeypox guidelines regarding treatment, prevention, community awareness, signs and symptoms of monkeypox, isolation of sick patients who have returned from affected countries monkeypox, surveillance strategy at airports and seaports, hospital infection control measures if suspected cases have been reported and many other preventive measures. So these will be comprehensive guidelines which the Ministry of Health will probably release in the next few days,” said ICMR Senior Scientist Dr. Nivedita Gupta.
“Ordinary people need to be educated about the disease and how to report to the health facility if they have symptoms. We expect the virus to come to India only through international travel , therefore, monitoring in ports is very important,” the scientist said.
Email queries to an ICMR spokesperson went unanswered until press time.
Monkeypox originates from animals such as rodents and primates and is transmitted to humans. It is found in Africa, mainly around tropical rainforest regions. The main symptoms are fever with an unexplained sharp rash all over the body. Other symptoms include headaches, swollen lymph nodes, muscle and body aches, back pain, and weakness.
Meanwhile, the NCDC has identified a few public health actions against monkeypox.
Explaining the measures, Priya Abraham, director of the National Institute of Virology, said: ‘Healthcare facilities should keep heightened suspicion in people who have overt symptoms. All suspected cases should be isolated in designated health facilities until lesions resolve and they are deemed fit to end isolation. All such patients should be reported to the IDSP District Surveillance Officer. In addition, all recommended infection control practices should be followed. Also, clinical specimens such as fluid from vesicles, blood, sputum, nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal specimens should be sent to ICMR-NIV, Pune in case of clinical suspicion.”
Priya said if there is a positive case, contact tracing should be started immediately for all contacts in the last 21 days. “Airport authorities will collect a 21-day travel history of passengers arriving from countries with cases of monkeypox and verify their current health status,” she said.
When asked if NIV, Pune had received any suspect samples or suspected cases, she replied, “We are ready but we have not received any suspect/confirmed samples yet. NCDC is already ready for monitoring and ICMR-NIV is ready to receive samples.”
According to public health experts, monkeypox cases around the world can potentially pose an additional challenge in these times. However, as a country, India needs to watch the global situation very closely and there is no need to panic at the moment.