As the capital reported its first case of monkeypox on Sunday after a 34-year-old man from West Delhi with no foreign travel history tested positive for the infection, health experts reiterated the importance of contact tracing, urged people who develop rashes to self-isolate, even as they urged residents not to panic, adding that there was no need yet to worry.
Dr Anurag Mahajan, Vice President (Critical Care) at PSRI Hospital, said the patient’s lack of foreign travel history is a matter of concern and government authorities should follow his history in detail contacts to locate the source of infection.
“So far, all cases of monkeypox reported in India have a history of overseas travel, but in this case, the patient has not traveled to any of the countries where such cases have been detected. In such case, there could be two possibilities, either he came into contact with a person who was probably asymptomatic or since this infection is zoonotic (disease transmitted from animals to humans), he could have been infected by a wild animal said Doctor Mahajan.
Although the West Delhi man has no recent history of overseas travel, he visited Himachal Pradesh before he began to develop symptoms, people in the know said of the case.
Most cases of monkeypox have been detected in Spain, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom and France, all countries that have never reported cases of infection.
Some experts, like Dr Mahajan, have also urged residents to wear masks in public spaces, arguing that there is evidence showing the infection can be airborne in certain circumstances.
Dr Suresh Kumar, medical director of Lok Nayak Hospital, which is Delhi’s hub hospital for monkeypox, said the man was admitted to the facility on Friday with fever and skin lesions, after whereupon his samples were sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune (NIV).
In a statement, the Union Health Ministry said on Sunday that close contacts of the patient had been identified and quarantined.
Dr Rajinder Kumar Singal, Senior Director and Head of Department of Internal Medicine at BLK-Max Superspecialty Hospital, said with the detection of the first case of monkeypox in the capital, it is likely that more such cases will occur. will be revealed. He also said people should continue to wear masks, especially in public places, keep their distance and if someone starts showing signs of a fever or rash, they should self-isolate.
“Symptomatic treatment should be instituted immediately. People who are traveling or have recently traveled are the most vulnerable, as are their family members. Healthcare professionals are also at risk due to their proximity to infected people,” Dr Singal 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. However, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is clinically less serious than smallpox. According to the latest guidelines issued by the Union Health Department, monkeypox can be transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids or the lesion of the infected person. The total duration of this viral disease is about three to four weeks and its symptoms include fever, body aches, headache and lymphadenopathy (enlarged lymph nodes in the neck and subsequently the patient will develop a rash on the face, palms and hands and feet or legs).
Certainly, the vaccines used to eradicate smallpox provided protection against monkeypox.
“Vaccination against smallpox has been shown by several observational studies to be approximately 85% effective in preventing monkeypox,” according to the WHO.
The WHO on Saturday declared monkeypox a “public health emergency of international concern”. So far, more than 16,000 cases have been reported in 75 countries around the world. In India, this is the fourth confirmed case of monkeypox, with the first three cases reported in Kerala. However, this is the first case of locally transmitted infection as the patient has no travel history.
Dr Jugal Kishore, head of the department of community medicine at Safdarjung Hospital, said young people are most vulnerable to monkeypox, as older populations were likely to have been inoculated against smallpox in the 1970s.
Smallpox was eradicated from India in 1977.
“The older population who received the smallpox vaccine are slightly more protected, although there are cases in Western countries where even those who were vaccinated against smallpox are now infected with monkeypox. However, their symptoms might not be as severe as those of a young person who has not taken the vaccine. Isolation of a patient with monkeypox should last around 20 days, until their scab is completely healed,” Dr Kishore said.