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Monkeypox unlikely to have reached India, despite speculative reports

Monkeypox may have arrived in India, according to reports that a five-year-old girl in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad may have contracted the condition. However, the presence of monkeypox in India is currently just speculation.

One of the symptoms of monkeypox are lesions that can develop across the body. (CDC’s Public Health Image Library) Media ID #2329

Samples from the child were sent for testing after she was reported with symptoms consistent with the disease. “Samples of a five-year-old girl have been collected for testing for monkeypox, as a precautionary measure, as she had complaints of itching and rashes on her body. She has no other health issues and neither she nor any of her close contacts travelled abroad in the past month,” the Chief Medical Officer of Ghaziabad has said.

The Government has issued statements dismissing the case, reiterating that the testing is being conducted as a precautionary measure. “The sample of a suspected monkeypox case in Ghaziabad has been sent for testing, but it’s unnecessary panic mongering. No monkeypox case has been reported in India so far,” government sources told ANI.

Currently, India has had no officially confirmed cases, and is taking the threat of the disease seriously. The government has issued guidelines directing district surveillance units to consider even one officially confirmed case of monkeypox as an outbreak, requiring the initiation of a detailed investigation through the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme. Such vigilance has been recommended due to the potential for monkeypox cases entering India even from non-endemic countries.

As previously reported by Health Issues India, monkeypox, much like COVID-19, is another zoonotic condition – spread to humans from animals. Typically the disease is endemic only to a few regions of Africa. The disease suddenly spread across May to a list of non-endemic countries including the United States, Canada, Australia, Israel and twelve European countries. The European CDC noted on Wednesday several other countries with confirmed or suspected cases, including Argentina, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

Notably the disease is far less transmissible than COVID-19, and so holds a far lower chance of ever becoming a pandemic-level situation. Monkeypox, as noted by the CDC, typically requires either skin contact, or prolonged exposure to large respiratory droplets. 

There is, however, an issue in diagnosing the condition. Early symptoms are flu-like, such as a fever, headaches, aching muscles and swollen lymph nodes. Rashes can develop, as well as lesions, though these are sometimes misidentified as chicken pox, as occurred in the first reported case in Greece. 

While the threat is not as immediate as the COVID-19 pandemic, vigilance is still a necessity to prevent another disease becoming endemic to India. Monkeypox is much more easily contained than COVID-19, and so, early detection and adequate surveillance is essential.

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