Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Monkeypox outbreak: It’s time to act, not panic

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Monkeypox

Mains level : Paper 2-Challenges of zoonotic diseases

Context

Monkeypox was previously limited to the local spread in central and west Africa, close to tropical rainforests, but has recently been seen in various urban areas and now in more than 50 countries.

About monkeypox

  • A virus belonging to the poxviruses family causes a rare contagious rash illness known as monkeypox.
  • This zoonotic viral disease (a disease transmitted from animals to humans) has hosts that include rodents and primates.
  • It is a self-limiting disease with symptoms lasting two to four weeks and a case fatality rate of 3-6 per cent.
  • Symptoms: A skin rash on any part of the body could be the only presenting symptom.
  • Swollen lymph nodes are another distinguishing feature. Aside from these, other symptoms of a viral illness include fever, chills, headache, muscle or back aches, and weakness.
  • Mode of transmission: Touching skin lesions, bodily fluids, or clothing or linens that have been in contact with an infected person can result in transmission.
  • It’s also worth noting that monkeypox does not spread from person to person through everyday activities like walking next to or having a casual conversation with an infected person.
  • Treatment: Monkeypox is mostly treated by managing symptoms and preventing complications if it is diagnosed.
  •  In the minor proportion who are immunocompromised, complications can occur; pulmonary failure was the most common complication with a high mortality rate.

Containment Measures

  • Because symptoms usually appear 5-21 days after exposure, people with rashes, sores in the mouth, rash, eye irritation or redness, or swollen lymph nodes should be monitored.
  • When symptoms appear, it is critical to isolate the infected from other people and pets, cover their lesions, and contact the nearest healthcare provider.
  • It is also critical to avoid close physical contact with others until instructed to do so by our healthcare provider.
  • It is preferable to use home isolation whenever possible.
  •  Priority should be given to educating grassroots workers about symptoms, specimen collection, disease detection, acquiring sample collection equipment, and maintaining cold storage of specimens.
  •  Increased surveillance and detection of monkeypox cases are critical for controlling the disease’s spread and understanding the changing epidemiology of this resurging disease.
  • Preventive health measures, such as avoiding infected animal or human contact and practising good hand hygiene, are the best option.

Vaccines and drugs

  • In the US, pre exposure vaccination with JYNNEOS® is available to healthcare workers and lab workers exposed to this group of poxviruses.
  • The smallpox vaccine is 85 percent effective against the disease.
  • Another vaccine, ACAM2000, is a live vaccinia virus vaccine that is otherwise recommended for smallpox immunisation and can also be used for high-risk individuals during monkeypox outbreaks.
  • In addition, Tecovirimat, an antiviral drug used to treat smallpox, is recommended for monkeypox.
  • Challenges: Smallpox vaccination programmes have been discontinued for the past 50 years, resulting in a scarcity of effective vaccines.
  • There are approved drugs and vaccines, but they are not widely available to scale up controlling monkeypox.

Why WHO declared it as international concern?

  •  The increase in monkeypox cases in a short span of time in many countries necessitated the declaration of public health emergency of international concern  (PHEIC) and additional research studies.
  • It is unclear whether the recent sudden outbreaks in multiple countries result from genotypic mutations that alter virus transmissibility. SARS-CoV-2 and monkeypox virus co-infection can alter infectivity patterns, severity, management, and response to vaccination against either or both diseases.
  • As a result, there is a need to improve diagnostic test efficiency.

Way forward

  • Plan for pandemic preparedness: This is not the last such difficulty we will face, as the world is still witnessing more such public health crises.
  • Zoonotic diseases are caused by various factors, including unchecked deforestation, climate coupled with a failure to prioritise public health, poverty, and climate change.
  • Instead, a robust plan for pandemic preparedness should be accelerated, guided by a single health agenda.
  •  The world is yet to recognise emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases as a genuine threat.
  • The immediate priority is to strengthen the surveillance infrastructure, including hiring public health professionals and field workers who can participate in outbreak detection and response during many future PHEICs.

Conclusion

Without prioritising public health strengthening, the threat of new and re-emerging infectious diseases, as well as the enormous social and economic challenges that accompany them, is real and grave.

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