Monkeypox is far less fatal than Covid, but it's better to be safe than sorry

According to the WHO such viruses are ‘fairly stable'

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Published: Tue 24 May 2022, 10:41 PM

The UAE’s effective handling of the Covid-19 pandemic for over two years has given health authorities the confidence to tackle the monkeypox virus which has raised some concerns across the world. More than 200 cases have been reported globally, mostly in Europe, and near-normal air travel since 2019 could make the virus, first detected in Africa more than 50 years ago, spread to other regions and continents.

The World Health Organization (WHO) held an emergency meeting that was inconclusive about the exact mode of transmission, but countries have been asked to raise surveillance levels though it is unclear if the pathogen is indeed spreading within communities.

Experts, however, believe the virus, a relative of the smallpox-causing pathogen, is transmitted through close contact through the skin and could be far less dangerous than Covid. That’s some comfort which does not mean countries shouldn’t raise alert levels. According to the WHO, the smallpox vaccine is 85 per cent effective against monkeypox. This is based on observational research in Africa where it lay dormant for decades.

Fortunately for the UAE, its advanced epidemiological surveillance system is among the best in the world. All emirates are taking no chances, and health care professionals and laboratories are prepared to track cases and treat the disease in individuals.

On Tuesday, the country reported its first case. What needs to be noted here is that monkeypox is not fatal in most cases and patients recover in one or two weeks. The UAE’s Covid protocol was to trace, test and treat, which later shifted to prevention with the advent of vaccines from late 2020.

The smart monitoring mechanism has already kicked into top gear to get ahead of monkeypox. The health ministry’s technical advisory team for pandemic control has prepared a comprehensive guide for surveillance, early detection of the disease, management of clinically infected patients and precautionary measures, we reported on Monday.

With Covid still around, the emergence of the monkeypox virus is bound to put a strain on health systems globally. What’s vital is to ramp up vaccine production if the virus does get out of control. Here the WHO is already in talks with vaccine-makers to ensure there are enough stocks to roll out if countries need them.

Moderna, an MRNA vaccine-maker has said it is working on a specific jab against the virus. Cases remain low and while there is no need to panic, it is important for people to be aware and alert of the symptoms that could be a rash, fever, or both, and report the same to a doctor.

It’s unlikely that the monkeypox virus has mutated since it was first found in Central Africa in a child in 1970. According to the WHO, such viruses are ‘fairly stable’. But a Covid-19-monkeypox combination could be deadly, especially in poorer countries whose populations are yet to be fully vaccinated against Covid.

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