Cases of monkeypox are spreading unchecked in India; Disease-related stigma Not letting people get tested: experts

New Delhi: In a growing concern, health experts have said cases of Monkeypox are spreading out of control in India and the stigma attached to the disease is likely hampering the testing process in the country. India has so far reported six confirmed cases – three in Kerala, two in Delhi and one in Karnataka. However, many cases can spread out of control in the country, Rajeev Jayadevan, co-chair of the IMA’s national task force on Covid-19, told the IANS news agency.Also Read – Rajasthan Monkeypox Scare: First suspected virus case reported, sample sent to Pune

“Many more cases are expected in India. Imagine that the current monkeypox epidemic looks like a big tree growing under the Earth’s surface. You can’t see it on the ground, but it’s spreading out of control below the surface,” Jayadevan said. The monkeypox outbreak, which was first reported in May, has now spread to 78 countries with more than 18,000 cases, according to the latest update from the World Health Organization released on July 28. . Read also – Monkeypox alert: Karnataka issues circular and asks districts to improve surveillance | Details inside

Jayadevan said that while the fallout to the general population, such as women and children, is “extremely rare”, there is a large network where the virus is spreading, “which is mainly made up of men who have sex with men and who also have several partners”. While the chance of a supercast event, like in Europe, is relatively “small in India”, the network “is more secretive” here. Also Read – 2nd monkeypox case in Delhi: Nigerian man with no recent overseas travel history tests positive for virus

Stigma doesn’t let people get tested

According to Ishwar Gilada, an infectious disease expert, the stigma attached to the name of the disease acts as a big barrier for people to come forward for a test. “The moment a suspected case of monkeypox approaches doctors, they’ll ask ‘did you do any monkey tricks? Where did you contract this disease? ,” Gilada told IANS. “Secondly, there is always a stigma associated with sexual transmission. We see this with other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like HIV,” he added.

Monkeypox is not yet an STD

Although 98% of monkeypox cases to date are seen in gay or bisexual men, it has not yet been classified as an STD. That’s because, “technically speaking, it could be sexual contact or any substantial physical contact like what happens during a massage,” Jayadevan said. He explained that to define monkeypox as an STD, it “must be exclusively sexually transmitted like gonorrhea, chlamydia.” And if so classified, “people will think the virus is only spread through sex and may not take all other necessary contact precautions.”

“Accelerate testing like Covid-19”

Gilada suggested “the government should step up testing” as it did during the Covid-19 pandemic. “We need to have our own testing kits to help people get tested, which will also help reduce cases,” he told IANS.

  • Currently, 15 of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Viral Research and Diagnostic Laboratories (VRDL) are carrying out preliminary testing for monkeypox infection.
  • The VDRL performs an RT-PCR test for orthopoxviruses – a family of viruses including monkeypox, cowpox, buffalopox and eradicated smallpox.
  • Samples are simultaneously confirmed by RT-PCR to specifically detect monkeypox virus at the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune.

No mass vaccination

Mass vaccination has not been recommended, only populations at risk receive doses of smallpox. But as during the pandemic, vaccines are limited to wealthy countries like the US, UK and Canada and some in Europe.

Opportunity for Indian Pharmaceutical Companies

The ICMR, meanwhile, has issued an open call for monkeypox vaccine development proposals from commercial companies to protect those most at risk. Gilada said it was again an opportunity for Indian pharmaceutical companies to develop vaccines not only for Indian citizens but also for the global population.

(With contributions from IANS)

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