Monkeypox scare grips India after 8 cases, 1 death

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NEW DELHI, Aug. 3: After eight monkeypox cases, including one death, over the past two-and-a-half weeks, the viral disease scare seems to have gripped India as the federal government is planning to develop a vaccine.

The southern state of Kerala has been the most-affected after five cases have been reported from there, while the rest three were detected in Delhi.

Currently, 20 high-risk contacts are said to be under observation in Kerala, including three health workers, a doctor and two nursing staff from a private hospital.

The country's first case, reported in Kerala on July 14, fully recovered last weekend, and was subsequently discharged from hospital.

India's latest two positive cases, one each in Kerala and Delhi, were reported on Tuesday. The Kerala patient arrived from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on July 27, and is undergoing treatment at a government hospital in Malappuram area after testing positive, the state's Health Minister Veena George said.

The latest case found in Delhi is a 31-year-old Nigerian national, who has no foreign travel history.

Indian Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said in the parliament on Tuesday that India currently has eight confirmed cases of monkeypox, of which five patients have a history of foreign travel.

Kerala, which has had the history of outbreaks of viral diseases in the past, has emerged as the most-affected state by monkeypox. Out of the total eight cases detected in the country, five have been reported from Kerala alone.

Meanwhile, Kerala's neighboring state Karnataka has also put its health authorities on a high alert. Karnataka Health Minister K. Sudhakar was quoted as saying that a circular has been issued to all district administrations regarding enhanced surveillance, designated institutional isolation facilities.

V.K. Paul, a member of the federal government's apex think-tank "NITI Aayog", has appealed to the public not to panic, as the government has taken "significant measures" to keep the disease under control.

Two weeks after the first case was found in the country, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) floated a tender to private or government pharma companies, or institutions involved in research and development, to develop a monkeypox vaccine.

Situated in New Delhi, the ICMR is the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research.

It said in a statement that "ICMR-National Institute of Virology (ICMR-NIV) has isolated the monkeypox virus, which is being propagated on specific cell lines under the biosafety laboratory conditions.

The ICMR-NIV has in its possession monkeypox virus isolates envisaged to be useful for development of a vaccine against monkeypox disease and development of IVD kits, the top Indian research agency said.

The ICMR-NIV has expertise in various techniques, methods and information relating to said virus strain/isolate, which could facilitate the development of vaccine, drug, IVD and other research and development activities, the ICMR said.


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