ISLAMABAD: A 19-year-old woman was tested positive for monkeypox in Islamabad on Saturday.

She had arrived from Saudi Arabia and admitted to the isolation ward of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) after being referred by the authorities at the Islamabad airport, according to Pims sources.

“The sample was taken/collected on Saturday morning and sent to the National Institute of Health (NIH). In the evening, the institute confirmed that it was a positive case.

“The patient belongs to Gujranwala and is the first female in Pakistan who has been infected with mpox. Earlier, two male [patients] tested positive in Islamabad and another male patient detected in Karachi,” the sources added.

When contacted, Pims spokesperson Dr Haider Abbasi confirmed that the 19-year-old female, who was deported from Saudi Arabia, has been confirmed with virus.

“Patient is in isolation ward and in stable condition. She will be discharged once she will be declared negative for the disease. Moreover, her contact persons are being identified and they will also be tested and kept in isolation till they are confirmed negative,” he added.

The spokesperson for the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS), Sajid Shah, said the ministry had already directed to strictly monitor entry points of Pakistan to ensure that every suspect would be identified. “There is no evidence of local transmission of the disease and people should not get panicked at all,” he said.

The first case had cleared the immigration without getting spotted with symptoms. The man later visited Pims where he was shifted to the isolation ward. He tested positive and another passenger on the same flight quarantined himself at home after testing positive.

A control room has already been set up at the National Command and Operation Centre to tackle mpox spread in the country.

Mpox — which spreads via close contact and tends to cause flu-like symptoms and pus-filled skin lesions — was declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation in July 2022.

The organisation maintained its alert in November. In November, the organisation named the disease mpox to replace the older term monkeypox, citing concerns of stigma and racism associated with the name.

Published in Dawn, May 21st, 2023

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