The World Health Organization today called on countries in South – East Asia Region to strengthen surveillance and public health measures for monkeypox, with the disease being declared a public health emergency of international concern.
“Monkeypox has been spreading rapidly and to many countries that have not seen it before, which is a matter of great concern. However, with cases concentrated among men who have sex with men, it is possible to curtail further spread of the disease with focused efforts among at-risk population,” *said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region.*
Globally, over 16000 cases of monkeypox have been reported from 75 countries. In the WHO South-East Asia Region, four cases of monkeypox have been reported, three from India and one from Thailand. The cases in India are among nationals who returned home from the Middle East, while in Thailand an international living in the country has been confirmed positive for monkeypox.
*The Regional Director said* , “Importantly, our focused efforts and measures should be sensitive, devoid of stigma or discrimination.”
The decision to term monkeypox as a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) was announced by *Dr Tedros, Director-General WHO,* yesterday, a day after he convened yet another meeting of the IHR emergency committee to review the multi-country outbreak.
“Though the risk of monkeypox globally and in the Region is moderate, the potential of its further international spread is real. Also, there are still many unknowns about the virus. We need to stay alert and prepared to roll out intense response to curtail further spread of monkeypox,” *Dr Khetrapal Singh said.*
Since the start of the outbreak, WHO has been supporting countries assess risk, and initiate public health measures, while also building and facilitating testing capacities in the Region.
Engaging and protecting the affected communities; intensifying surveillance and public health measures; strengthening clinical management and infection prevention and control in hospitals and clinics; and accelerating research into the use of vaccines, therapeutics and other tools, are among the key measures that need to be scaled-up, the Regional Director said.
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. Transmission can also occur from contaminated materials such as linens, bedding, electronics, clothing, that have infectious skin particles.
WHO concerns on Monkeypox
The first Indian elected as Regional Director of the World Health Organization’s South-East Asia Region expressed concern over the rapidly spreading cases of monkeypox, but noted that since cases are concentrated among men who have sex with men, further spread of the disease could be stopped with targeted efforts among the at-risk population.
“It is really concerning that monkeypox is spreading quickly to many nations that have never previously experienced it. With targeted efforts among the at-risk population, the disease can be stopped from spreading further as cases are concentrated among males who have sex with other men “In a statement, WHO Regional Director Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh said.
Monkeypox has been deemed a public health emergency of worldwide significance, and the World Health Organization has called on nations in the South-East Asia Region to step up surveillance and public health measures.
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared on Saturday that the global monkeypox outbreak “represents a public health emergency of international significance.”
In 75 countries, including three in India and one in Thailand, more than 16000 cases of monkeypox have been documented.
While an international resident of Thailand has been verified to have monkeypox, the cases in India are among citizens who have recently returned from the Middle East.