A pox on Monkeypox via vax, awareness

India has recorded its first Monkeypox death in Kerala. Of the four reported cases so far, one person has recovered. But there are now nearly 20,000 reported cases across 78 countries. The sudden increase in numbers prompted the World Health Organisation (WHO) to declare Monkeypox as a global public health emergency on July 23. At this stage, the spread is limited, but GoI needs to ensure it is prepared. It must focus on ensuring information and medical access are available to those at risk, especially the immunocompromised. It should also ensure easy access to vaccines and antivirals.

Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease related to the smallpox virus. There is no specific vaccine against it, but globally two smallpox vaccines are being used, ACAM2000 and Jynneos, which GoI is in talks with companies to procure. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has isolated the virus from a clinical specimen – the strain in India is a 99.85% match with the West African variety spreading globally. It has called for bids to develop testing kits and to set up a taskforce to monitor and guide the government on expanding diagnostic facilities and vaccination trends. The health ministry has already prepared guidelines for management of Monkeypox. This is much welcome, since awareness and early medical attention can ensure full recovery.

GoI has been swift in its response. It must keep up the momentum, reach out to the at-risk population and work on ensuring availability of vaccines and treatment, even as it develops better cures. Most importantly, the government must focus on building a strong public primary healthcare system for people to access live-saving treatment. If there is one lesson the Covid pandemic has taught us, it is this.


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