Monkeypox Not As Contagious As Covid-19, But Its Spread Is A Matter Of Concern: NTAGI

With cases being reported from across the world, monkeypox has caught everyone’s attention. The present outbreak has a toll of over 220 confirmed cases spread across 19 countries. U.K., Spain and Portugal are leading the pack with the highest number of confirmed cases but no deaths reported till date. An Indian govt panel on Wednesday has said that the Monkeypox is not as contagious as Covid-19, but its spread is a matter of serious concern. Dr. NK Arora, chairman of the Covid-19 working group of the National Technical Advisory Group of Immunisation (NTAGI) has said that the govt has formed an expert panel on Monkeypox. Though, no Monkeypox case has been reported in India yet, but the govt is keeping a close eye on every state. 

Monkeypox belongs to the poxvirus family of viruses and was first identified in monkeys way back in 1958. The present outbreak has a toll of over 220 confirmed cases spread across 19 countries. A number of genome sequences in recent years from Africa and across the world suggest that there are two distinct clades of the virus – the Congo Basin/Central African clade and the West African clade. The smallpox/vaccinia vaccine provides protection against the virus. While the vaccine has been discontinued in 1980 following the eradication of smallpox, emergency stockpiles of the vaccines are maintained by many countries.

The present outbreak has been interesting in many ways. While sporadic outbreaks have occurred in Africa and a few outside of Africa in regions which had recorded travel from areas where outbreaks have occured, such massive flare-ups spanning multiple countries simultaneously has not happened before. Additionally many of the affected patients did not travel to regions where the disease is considered prevalent and the initial cases were largely, but not exclusively among young individuals who identify themselves as men who have sex with men (MSM).

However, no cases have been reported in India till now, but the Tamil Nadu government has directed the district Collectors and Commissioners of Corporations to monitor and identify suspected cases of monkeypox, if any, and isolate them at healthcare facilities for appropriate treatment. Asking the officials to watch out for any symptoms among the people on this viral zoonotic disease, State Health and Family Welfare Principal Secretary Dr J Radhakrishnan said those who have travelled in the last 21 days to a country that has recently confirmed or suspected cases of the monkeypox should be monitored.

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