Malik Nasir Mahmood Aslam is concerned about a threatening disease
Monkeypox revisiting – While the world was in the grip of Coronavirus, another fatal virus had emerged side by side but its impact was overshadowed by the pandemic. Monkeypox has earlier attacked Pakistan but it appeared to be a scale that was considered manageable but now it is again reported that its strains are detected in many hospitals in the country. It was reported that the Zika virus spreads mostly through an infected Aedes species mosquito during the day and night. Unfortunately, there is no treatment available for Zika virus infection or its associated diseases and that no vaccine was yet available for the prevention or treatment of the infection. Zika virus could be transmitted from mother to fetus during pregnancy, resulting in microcephaly (smaller than normal head size) and other congenital malformations in the infant.
About Monkeypox it is said that it is a rare viral zoonotic disease that occurred primarily in remote parts of central and West Africa near tropical rain forests. The virus was similar to human smallpox, a disease that had been eradicated in 1980. The disease could be transmitted through contact with infected animals, humans or materials contaminated with the virus. The virus enters the body through broken skin, the respiratory tract or the mucous membranes like the eyes, nose or mouth. Other human-to-human methods of transmission include direct or indirect contact with body fluids, lesions or contaminated clothing. The patient develops a rash within one to three days after the appearance of fever, often beginning on the face and then spreading to other parts of the body. Other symptoms include headache, muscle aches, exhaustion and lymphadenopathy. The incubation period is usually seven to 14 days but can range from five to 21 days. The illness typically lasts for two to four weeks.
It is recently reported that at least two cases of Monkeypox have come to fore in Pakistan in recent days. According to recent reports, at least two cases of monkeypox have been reported in the country and the patients were diagnosed after flying in from Saudi Arabia. Though the health authorities have shown no real concern about the virus but this is how they usually react to such diseases in the beginning. It is however a matter of little consolation that monkeypox is not deadly in many cases though it can make people very sick. It is reported that children, pregnant women and people with weak immune systems are at risk from complications related to the disease. The infection is contagious and can spread through personal contact and infected animals, as well as by sharing contaminated materials.
As a preliminary step the authorities are concentrating on contact tracing and isolation at this point to prevent further spread of the ailment. The problem however is that Rs.88 billion health programme is shut down by the authorities that may seriously hamper the treatment of monkeypox. While the economic situation may warrant cost-cutting, public health programmes — particularly those that are supposed to deal with epidemics and natural disasters — should be exempted, especially if funds have already been earmarked. If there are capacity issues, they can be addressed through training, the implementation of best practices and oversight. It is pointed out that closing down an entire health programme may spell disaster and this fear is prevailing with the country.
Shutting down an entire health programme is not the answer. Globalisation and the emergence of new strains of infectious diseases means that the next epidemic may not be too far away. The global MERS, SARS, and Covid health crises all support this position. Pakistan, instead of cutting back spending on its already weak health infrastructure, must strengthen it and prepare to deal with emerging and established threats to public health.
Global health officials have sounded the alarm over rising cases in Europe and elsewhere of monkeypox, a type of viral infection more common to west and central Africa. The recent outbreaks reported so far are atypical as they are occurring in countries where the virus does not regularly circulate. Scientists are seeking to understand the origin of the current cases and whether anything about the virus has changed. WHO officials have expressed concerns that more infections may emerge as people gather for festivals, parties and holidays during the summer months.
In many countries the governments have started to inoculate healthcare workers who may be at risk while caring for patients, with the smallpox vaccine, which can also protect against monkeypox. There are antiviral drugs for smallpox that could also be used to treat monkeypox under certain circumstances. More broadly, health officials say that people should avoid close personal contact with someone who has a rash illness or who is otherwise unwell. People who suspect they have monkeypox should isolate and seek medical care. It is widely believed that close contact was the key transmission route, as lesions typical of the disease are very infectious. There is no specific treatment but vaccination against smallpox has been found to be about 85 per cent effective in preventing monkeypox. The Weekender
Malik Nasir Mahmood Aslam is a seasoned social activist