A 35-year-old man who recently travelled from the Middle East has been confirmed as the first case of monkeypox in the WHO South-East Asia Region.
“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,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia. WHO has been supporting 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, she said.
Since the beginning of the year, there have been over 6000 cases of monkeypox recorded from 60 different countries, along with three fatalities. According to a WHO press release, more instances should be anticipated as surveillance is increased.
The danger is rated as moderate both globally and inside the Region. On June 23, 2022, WHO called a meeting of the Emergency Committee to get input from experts about whether the current epidemic qualified as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
In light of limited community immunity to pox virus infection and the possibility of continued sustained transmission into the wider population, the committee advised a strong action to stop the current outbreak. The Emergency Committee has scheduled its upcoming meeting for July 21.
The Regional Director said that WHO has been disseminating guidelines for community participation, infection prevention and control, clinical care, surveillance, case investigation, and contact tracing, as well as laboratory diagnostics and testing.
The National Institute of Virology, India; the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory, Australia; the National Institute of Health, Department of Medical Sciences, Thailand; and the Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand; have been coordinated with by WHO in light of the region’s limited capacity for monkeypox testing.
With technical help and the purchase of essential materials that are in high demand and short supply internationally, WHO is assisting countries in the Region in developing their testing capacity.
Orienting clinicians in both public and private sectors to identify and report as well as appropriately treat cases of monkeypox, are among other the key priorities, as per the press release.
“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,” the Regional Director said.
In the current outbreak countries and amongst the reported monkeypox cases, transmission appears to be occurring primarily through close physical contact, including sexual contact. Transmission can also occur from contaminated materials such as linens, bedding, electronics, clothing, that have infectious skin particles.