New Delhi: A task force on monkeypox has been constituted to closely monitor the emerging situation in the country and decide on response initiatives to tackle the spread of the disease, official sources said on Monday. It will also provide guidance to the government on the expansion of diagnostic facilities in the country and explore emerging trends related to vaccination for the disease, the sources said.
A 22-year-old man, who recently returned to Kerala from the UAE, allegedly died due to monkeypox on Saturday. India has reported a total of four cases of the disease so far. The decision to constitute the task force was taken at a high-level meeting held on July 26 at the level of the principal secretary to the prime minister to review the ongoing public health preparedness in the country.
The task force will be headed by Dr V K Paul, NITI Aayog member (health). The National Aids Control Organisation and the Directorate General of Health Services in the Health Ministry have been asked to work on a targeted communication strategy to promote timely reporting, detection of cases and management of cases, an official source said. Instructions were given to operationalise the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) network of labs and make arrangements for requisite diagnostics of monkeypox disease.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently declared monkeypox a global public health emergency of international concern. Globally, over 16,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported from 75 countries. The Union Health Ministry has undertaken a number of initiatives which includes strengthening of health screening at Points of Entry and operationalisation of 15 laboratories under the ICMR to undertake testing for monkeypox disease. It also issued comprehensive guidelines on the disease covering both public health as well as clinical management aspects and regular interaction with states were held virtually as well as Central multidisciplinary teams were deployed to affected states.
According to the WHO, monkeypox is a viral zoonosis — a virus transmitted to humans from animals — with symptoms similar to smallpox although clinically less severe. Monkeypox typically manifests itself with fever, rash and swollen lymph nodes and may lead to a range of medical complications. It is usually a self-limited disease with symptoms lasting for two to four weeks.