ISLAMABAD: After two confirmed cases of mpox emerged in the country, medical professionals said the situation was under control and there was “nothing to worry about since Pakistan was dealing with such cases for decades.
Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) spokesperson Sajid Shah told Dawn blamed the media for creating “hype” about the viral disease and said everything was under control.
He added that there was no evidence regarding the local outbreak of the disease. “We have learnt a lot from Covid-19 and our health system, which also includes trace and track mechanism, has improved. We are well prepared to deal with any situation,” he said.
Speaking about the first case of mpox, he said that an expat, who arrived from Saudi Arabia on April 17, had tested positive for mpox. “The patient was admitted in an isolation ward of Pims and as many as 22 contacts were traced and samples were taken from them with a direction to remain in isolation until results of tests would be announced,” he added.
“Those who were identified as suspects during the contact tracing included passengers of the flight, the airport staff and those who had interacted with the patient,” the spokesperson said.
Separately, Prof Dr Javaid Usman, who is a microbiologist, said, “We have been facing Mpox cases for decades, so there is nothing to worry about it.” He, however, added that there was no approved antiviral therapy for mpox so symptomatic treatment is usually given.
“In some countries, the vaccine for smallpox is administered on an experimental basis but even that was given to family members of the patient which is called ring vaccination,” he added.
Expert says Pakistan has been dealing with mpox cases for decades
Islamabad District Health Officer Dr Zaeem Zia told Dawn that on Thursday his teams identified three suspects of mpox and took their samples besides ensuring that they would remain in isolation till the confirmation of tests.
“We have established three teams which have been monitoring entry points of the city and other areas to identify patients,” he claimed. “It is easy to identify the symptomatic patients but asymptomatic patients cannot be spotted. However the good thing is that asymptomatic patients do not spread the virus,” he said.
At least 22 samples collected by the National Institute of Health from Islamabad and Rawalpindi to test mpox after contract tracing came back negative, the NIH said on Thursday.
Currently, Pakistan has no vaccine available for the virus, as confirmed by a senior officer of the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS) on the condition of anonymity.
“Mpox is treated as per symptoms, such as paracetamol is given if a patient has a fever and rash cream is applied in case of a rash: this is called symptomatic treatment,” he said, adding that smallpox vaccine is used to treat monkeypox in some cases but it is not considered proper treatment.
A Pakistani national who was deported from Saudi Arabia on April 17 on a flight with over 20 people on board was first diagnosed with the virus. According to the official, at least five passengers were tested — three were cleared while two had chickenpox.
Meanwhile, another passenger, whose first test for monkeypox has come back positive, might have contracted the virus after using the same toilet as the first patient, the official said, adding that a formal announcement will be made after the second test.
Two cases of mpox
Meanwhile, National Health Services (NHS) Parliamentary Secretary Dr Shazia Sobia Aslam Soomro told the National Assembly there were two confirmed mpox cases in Pakistan.
Dr Soomro stated this while responding to a question from a member National Assembly on the floor of the house. She said treatment against mpox will be available in the market soon.
Published in Dawn, April 28th, 2023