A task force on monkeypox will be constituted to provide guidance to the government on expansion of diagnostic facilities and explore emerging trends related to vaccination for the disease, official sources said on Thursday.
The decision was taken at a high-level meeting held on June 26 at the level of principal secretary to the prime minister to review the ongoing public health preparedness and response initiatives against the spread of monkeypox, the sources told PTI.
India has so far reported four cases of monkeypox, with three from Kerala and one from Delhi.
The National Aids Control Organisation and Directorate General of Health Services have been asked to work on a sensitive and targeted communication strategy to promote timely reporting, detection of cases and management of cases, the sources said.
It was advised to operationalise the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) network labs and make arrangements for requisite diagnostics of monkeypox disease.
"A task force on monkeypox disease will be constituted to guide government of India on expansion of diagnostic facilities in the country, availability of kits and required reagents for the same and also explore emerging trends related to vaccination for the disease," the official source told PTI.
The meeting was attended by the Cabinet Secretary, Member (Health), NITI Aayog, Union Health Secretary, Additional Secretary (PMO) and other senior officials.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) had on Saturday last declared monkeypox a global public health emergency of international concern. Globally, over 16,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported from 75 countries and there have been five deaths so far.
The Union Health Ministry has undertaken a number of initiatives even before the declaration by the WHO which includes strengthening of health screening at Points of Entry and operationalisation of 15 laboratories under the ICMR to undertake testing for monkeypox disease.
It has also issued comprehensive guidelines on the disease covering both public health as well as clinical management aspects and regular interaction with states were held virtually as well as Central multidisciplinary teams were deployed to affected states.
According to the WHO, monkeypox is a viral zoonosis – a virus transmitted to humans from animals – with symptoms similar to smallpox although clinically less severe.
Monkeypox typically manifests itself with fever, rash and swollen lymph nodes and may lead to a range of medical complications. It is usually a self-limited disease with symptoms lasting for two to four weeks.
The 'Guidelines on Management of Monkeypox Disease' issued by the Centre, stated that human-to-human transmission occurs primarily through large respiratory droplets generally requiring prolonged close contact.
It can also be transmitted through direct contact with body fluids or lesions, and indirect contact with lesion material such as through contaminated clothing or linen of an infected person. Animal-to-human transmission may occur by bite or scratch of infected animals or through bush meat preparation.
The incubation period is usually from six to 13 days and the case fatality rate of monkeypox has historically ranged up to 11 per cent in the general population and higher among children. In recent times, the case fatality rate has been around three to six per cent.
The symptoms include lesions which usually begin within one to three days from the onset of fever, lasting for around two to four weeks and are often described as painful until the healing phase when they become itchy. A notable predilection for palm and soles is characteristic of monkeypox, the guidelines stated.