India’s monkeypox case count rose to nine on Tuesday with Kerala reporting its fifth case.
A person who returned from UAE on July 24 was found to be infected with monkeypox.
In all, India now has nine cases — five from Kerala, three from Delhi and one Nigerian national.
Earlier in the day, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya informed the Rajya Sabha today that eight monkeypox virus cases had been detected in the country to date, adding that the government was working to prevent the spread and there was no cause for fear.
Of these eight, five have a history of international travel from Dubai and Sharjah with the government now asking the UAE to coordinate with India on monkeypox positive cases. The 22-year-old Kerala male who returned from UAE on July 22 and died on July 30 at Thrissur had tested positive for the virus on July 19 in the UAE.
“Some passengers take paracetamol and are not detected by thermal screening at airports. So we have asked the UAE to let us know of the history of India-bound passengers,” Mandaviya said.
The minister added that this was not a very risky disease and could be prevented through tracing contacts of the patient and isolating them for some days.
The minister added that a task force had been formed under the leadership of NITI Aayog Member health VK Paul to monitor the situation.
The disease, he said, spreads through deep contact — mother to child, husband to wife and does not affect a particular community.
The minister was responding to member concerns about studies that have revealed a high vulnerability of the LGBTQ community to the new disease.
We are keeping full watch on the situation and had issued guidelines on management on May 31, much before India detected its first case in Kerala on July 14, Mandaviya stressed.
“We have to prepare in advance to prevent any disease. That is what Covid taught us. States have been provided guidelines as early as on May 31. We have 15 labs apart from NIV Pune to detect the virus,” Mandaviya said.
On vaccination he said there was lack of comprehensive data on efficacy of any vaccine although Ankara had begun using a vaccine which was previously used for smallpox since the two diseases are caused by related viruses.
The minister said ICMR has isolated the virus and the government was confident they would be able to develop a vaccine for monkeypox as they did for Covid.
During the question hour in Rajya Sabha, Kerala MP Jose Mani said NIV Pune was taking a week to return samples which was a long time. “By then the disease outbreak can happen,” Mani said.
The minister said the government was working to improve detection.
So far 18,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in 78 countries. Six persons have died, including one in India.
The minister said even the WHO had discouraged countries against mass vaccination for monkeypox which is mostly a self-limiting disease and had asked for a case to case vaccination among high risk groups based on evidence.