SE Asia on alert for Monkeypox: WHO

New Delhi, July 15 (FN Bureau) The South East Asia (SEA) Region of the World Health Organisation(WHO) raised alarm on Friday following the reporting of the first case of Monkeypox in India. “The Region has been on alert for monkeypox. Countries have been taking measures to rapidly detect and take appropriate measures to prevent the spread of monkeypox,” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO SEA, said via a statement. The case in India is also the first in the SEA region. The world health agency said that it has been supporting the member countries in the region to assess the risk for Monkeypox and strengthen their capacities to prepare and respond to the evolving multi-country outbreak.

However, it added that globally, and in the SEA region, the risk is assessed as moderate so far. The first case of monkeypox in the WHO SEA region has been reported from India in a 35-year-old man who arrived in Kerala from UAE earlier this week. So far, over 6000 cases of Monkeypox and three deaths have been reported across 60 countries since the spread began to be reported from the beginning of the year. However, the UN agency also said that more cases are expected to be reported as and when the countries increase their surveillance. The WHO said that it is supporting countries in the region to build testing capacities with technical assistance as well as procurement of required provisions that are high in demand and low in supplies globally. In view of the limited testing capacities in the SEA region for Monkeypox, the UN agency has coordinated with four laboratories- National Institute of Virology, India; Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory, Australia; National Institute of Health, Department of Medical Sciences, Thailand; and Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand -to serve as referrals.

“We have been sharing guidance for raising awareness; surveillance, case investigation and contact tracing; laboratory diagnostics and testing; clinical management and infection prevention and control; and community engagement,” the Regional Director said. “Monkeypox requires collective attention and coordinated action to stop its further spread. In addition to using public health measures and ensuring health tools are available to at-risk populations and shared fairly, it is important to work with communities to ensure that people who are most at risk, have the information and support they need to protect themselves and others,” Khetrapal added. Monkeypox virus is transmitted from infected animals to humans via indirect or direct contact. Human-to-human transmission can occur through direct contact with infectious skin or lesions, including face-to-face, skin-to-skin, and respiratory droplets. In the current outbreak countries and amongst the reported Monkeypox cases, transmission appears to be occurring primarily through close physical contact, including sexual contact, according to the experts. The transmission can also occur from contaminated materials such as linens, bedding, electronics, and clothing, that have infectious skin particles.