India to screen passengers arriving from monkeypox-hit nations

The instructions were issued after 11 nations, including from Europe, Africa, Americas and Australia, reported confirmed cases of monkeypox

HYDERABAD: With cases of monkeypox popping up in several countries, the Union government on Friday issued alerts to all airports in the country to screen international passengers arriving into India.

The instructions were issued after 11 countries, including from Europe, Africa, Americas and Australia, reported confirmed or suspected cases of monkeypox.

The government said airports with international air traffic should immediately reactivate their surveillance systems, check incoming passengers, particularly those from countries that have reported monkeypox cases. However, there have been no such cases in India.

“We have been instructed to start surveillance, which we will begin straight away,” Dr Anuradha Medju, the airport health officer here told Deccan Chronicle.

She said that the entire staff at Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (RGIA) would be alerted about possible symptoms of monkeypox.
“We will be collecting a 21-day travel history of passengers coming from nations with monkeypox cases and check their current health status,” she said.

While there are no current plans to track the health of such international arrivals after they leave the airport, the airport staff and health personnel deployed there will be briefed about possible symptoms.

The first case of monkeypox outside of central and west Africa where it is endemic, was reported in London on May 6. Since then, as on Friday, 134 cases have been reported, of which 63 were confirmed, 24 listed as probable and 47 suspected cases.

While typically, monkeypox virus is found in a range of rodents, and non-human primates according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the world body adds that it is transmitted from human to human through close contact with an infected person or animal or with material contaminated with the virus.

According to the Centers for disease control and prevention (CDC) of the US, the monkeypox virus belongs to the orthopoxvirus genus of viruses that also includes the variola virus and vaccinia virus that is used in the smallpox vaccine and cowpox virus.

According to WHO, the monkeypox clade that has been identified in the recent cases, indicates that it is from the west African side, and is believed to be less dangerous than the variety that is found in central African areas.

Dr Rangareddy Burri, who heads the infectious diseases control academy, told Deccan Chronicle that there is no need for any panic or worry but India should be on alert.

“We now have a robust surveillance system apart from the lessons learnt from Covid. The first principle is to be cautious,” he said.

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