The Union health ministry last week issued a detailed list of dos and don’ts as India reported one death due to monkeypox and nine confirmed cases of the viral disease. The focus of the guidelines is to avoid the spread of the disease which the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared a ‘public health emergency of international concern’.
As of now, more than 25,000 people have been affected by the disease in 80 countries spread across all continents, the majority being in Europe. According to WHO, monkeypox virus, transmitted from animals to humans and is found mainly in central and west Africa, causes flu-like symptoms and pus-filled skin lesions.
Early isolation of the infected person from others is the key to the prevention strategy as prolonged exposure to the virus is understood to be a precondition for a person to contract the disease. Using hand sanitisers and washing hands with soap and water, covering mouth with masks and hands with disposable gloves when close to a patient, and using disinfectants to sanitise the environment around are also part of the guidelines. The government has warned against stigmatising people affected with the disease as it will stop people from seeking medical aid, further threatening the public health system. The government has also constituted a task force to closely monitor the situation and formulate effective responses.
No country is safe from pandemics and even epidemics at a time when the world is so closely connected. The only way to protect the people is to enhance public health infrastructure, which must focus more on awareness and prevention than earlier. There must also be a network of diagnostic facilities which facilitate early identification of the arrival of new vectors. We must realise that we as a nation are vulnerable to public health emergencies and the defence of the people must have short, medium and long term elements in it. In short, healthcare must get a higher place in the nation’s agenda than it gets now.