Monkeypox outbreak

Published July 27, 2022

IT may seem right now to be a distant concern, but if the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that even diseases that might once have been considered isolated and limited to a few corners of the globe can spread very rapidly thanks to the increasing interconnectedness of world economies. The latest emergent health concern, a monkeypox outbreak, has now been upgraded to a ‘global health emergency’ by the World Health Organisation — the highest level of alert issued by the global public health body. The disease has been called that because it was first detected in a monkey. It is related to the smallpox virus, a deadly disease, but monkeypox is considerably less severe. It has already infected close to 16,000 people in 72 different countries. The recent outbreak is said to have begun in Europe, with the WHO counting a rapid increase in the number of cases there in the month of May. By June, the number of infected people had shot up from 80 in the previous month to more than 1,000, with the disease being reported from 29 countries where it is not usually present. The numbers have since risen to 16,000 and 72 countries.

Thankfully, the strain of monkeypox currently circulating outside Africa is the milder of the two versions known to be in existence. Still, that does not mean we can afford to be complacent. Even ‘mild’ monkeypox is still quite painful to experience, and pregnant women, children and immune-compromised persons are especially at risk for serious complications. Given the congested living conditions in our urban areas, the risk of a major outbreak remains high in Pakistan. We must, therefore, put in place systems for early detection and quarantine, especially for travellers returning from countries where it has already been detected. The health ministry has called for enhanced vigilance, but that is not enough. There must be a national drive to educate people about the disease and also to practise better hygiene and cleanliness as a preventative measure.

Published in Dawn, July 27th, 2022

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