PAKISTAN’S current economic realities and the state of its health infrastructure fly in the face of lofty claims about healthcare and disease control. It is clear that this country can ill afford another health emergency; this time monkeypox. This week, two cases of the virus were reported in Pakistan, taking the tally to five. Although too few to set alarm bells ringing, the figure is sufficient to put intense awareness and precautionary steps in motion.
The disease is not new to the world; it dates back to 1970 and has since risen from time to time. Last year, when Britain threw up the highest number of cases in the world, WHO had rolled out a detailed list of symptoms — skin rash, lesions, swollen lymph nodes, fever and others — stating that mpox is spread through contact with infected humans, animals and surfaces and the smallpox vaccine can be used as a protective measure. In August, the organisation reported over 18,000 cases from as many as 78 countries, and another 23 cases were recorded in India in December. Disregarding the contagious nature of mpox, Pakistan’s preventive actions have been inconsequential. An outbreak can be averted with informed communities and health personnel so that hazards are confronted capably. Consequently, task forces at airports to halt transmission and an overseeing body to screen vulnerable groups — health workers, the young and the poor — isolation and diagnostic facilities, are ample moves to keep safe. Although the virus does not present mass fatal danger as it passes away of itself in two to four weeks, the WHO did flag its fatality with 3,413 deaths recorded till July. Therefore, free provision of smallpox vaccination is an almost fail-safe move as it is 85pc effective in pre- and post-exposure to the infection. Far-reaching deterrents are necessary for children, those with poor health and complications and to save large swathes of the population from a painful, epizootic condition.
Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2023