India reported its first case of monkeypox on Thursday, with a Keralite who returned from the UAE testing positive for the virus, prompting the Centre to rush a high-level multi-disciplinary team to collaborate with the state health authorities in instituting public health measures.
The case was confirmed through the testing of the samples of the symptomatic person at the National Institute of Virology, Pune, state Health Minister Veena George said.
The country's first case of the virus was reported on a day when the Centre asked states to ensure screening and testing of all suspect cases at points of entry and in the community as part of India's preparedness against the disease.
All samples of the infected persons have been tested positive, she said, confirming the country's first case of the rare virus. All measures have been taken to prevent the spread of the disease, the minister said, adding there was no cause for concern.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, in a statement, too said there was no cause for concern presently and said just like the spread of covid-19 was checked, monkeypox can also be contained.
Vijayan added that the patient was kept in isolation after he began showing signs of the disease and those who were in contact with him are being closely observed.
The man, hailing from Kollam district, arrived at the Thiruvananthapuram airport from the UAE on July 12 and all his close contacts have been identified, the minister said.
A health ministry source told PTI that five people including his relatives and a taxi and an auto driver had close contact with him.
Besides them, he had 13 primary contacts in the flight and they have also been identified, the source said.
The minister said the cabin crew of the flight has also been informed about the case.
She said after reaching his home in Kollam, the man had visited a private hospital there. He was referred to the Government Medical College Hospital, Thiruvananthapuram, where the doctors suspected he was showing symptoms of monkeypox.
His samples were collected and sent to the National Institute of Virology, Pune for testing, George said.
The health department advised everyone to be cautious and vigilant.
Meanwhile, the Union ministry of health and family welfare is sending a high-level multi-disciplinary team to Kerala to collaborate with the state health authorities in instituting public health measures in view of the confirmed case of monkeypox in Kollam district, a Press Information Bureau release said.
The central team will comprise experts drawn from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr RML Hospital, New Delhi and a senior official from the ministry of health along with experts from the Regional Office of Health and Family Welfare, Kerala, the release said.
"The team shall work closely with the state health department and take stock of on-ground situations and recommend necessary public health interventions. The Government of India is taking proactive steps by monitoring the situation carefully and coordinating with states in case of any such possibility of outbreak," it said.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), monkeypox is a viral zoonosis (a virus transmitted to humans from animals) with symptoms similar to those seen in the past in smallpox patients, although it is clinically less severe.
With the eradication of smallpox in 1980 and subsequent cessation of smallpox vaccination, monkeypox has emerged as the most important orthopoxvirus for public health.
Earlier in the day, the Centre asked states to ensure screening and testing of all suspect cases at points of entry and in the community as part of India's preparedness against the disease.
In its advisory that came amid rise in such cases globally, the Government of India also asked the states and Union Territories to identify hospitals and ensure adequate human resources and logistic support to manage any suspect or confirmed monkeypox case.