Thursday, April 27, 2023

Pakistan to approach WHO for vaccine as mpox cases surface

Mock-up vials labeled Monkeypox vaccine and medical syringe are seen in this illustration taken, May 25, 2022. — Reuters/File
Mock-up vials labeled "Monkeypox vaccine" and medical syringe are seen in this illustration taken, May 25, 2022. — Reuters/File

  • Pakistan reports cases of mpox in individuals who returned from Saudi Arabia.
  • NCOC holds meeting to discuss the monkeypox situation in country.
  • Health institutions, airports put on high alert throughout Pakistan.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has decided to request the World Health Organisation (WHO) to provide vaccines for the prevention of monkeypox (mpox) after two people, who had returned from Saudi Arabia were found infected with the virus, The News reported quoting officials in the National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHS,R&C). 

“During a National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) meeting held on Wednesday to discuss the monkeypox situation in the country, it was decided that WHO would be requested a sizeable quantity of vaccine to immunise healthcare providers and infectious diseases experts who would be on the frontline to deal with the confirmed and suspected cases of the infectious disease”, an official of the NHS, R&C said.

Health institutions and establishments were put on high alert throughout Pakistan after two persons were found infected with mpox upon arrival in Islamabad on April 17, 2023. 

Isolation wards and filter clinics were also established in major cities of the country including Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar to deal with any suspected cases of the Monkeypox disease.

The NHS official said the issue of monkeypox cases was discussed in detail at the NCOC meeting Wednesday at the National Institute of Health (NIH) Islamabad where it was decided that a formal request would be made to the world health body for the provision of vaccine for the healthcare providers and frontline workers so that they could be prevented from the disease.

The official said as per WHO and US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, persons who work in settings where they may be exposed to mpox, or orthopoxvirus in a laboratory are part of an orthopoxvirus and healthcare worker response team need to be vaccinated with the two-doze vaccine.

“At the moment, the mpox vaccine is not available because we did not have any cases but now that we have detected its cases, it is important that we have the vaccine to immunise our vulnerable people and experts”, the NHS official added.

On the other hand, officials in Sindh and other provinces said they had established rapid response teams on district levels to keep an over suspected cases of mpox and to send the samples of the suspected persons to the NIH Islamabad as well as isolating the suspected and confirmed patients.

“Since January 2022, cases of monkeypox have been reported to WHO from 110 member states across all 6 WHO regions. As of April 25, 2023, a total of 87,113 laboratory-confirmed cases and 130 deaths, have been reported to WHO,” the NHS, R&C official said.

Giving details of the Mpox cases reported in the country, the NHS official said on April 17, 2023, a very sick person who had been deported from Saudi Arabia for over-staying, landed in Islamabad with high-grade fever, rashes, headache, muscle aches and sore throat. 

He was advised to visit the Pakistan Institute of Islamabad (PIMS), Islamabad. 

“On suspicion of being infected with mpox, the samples of the said person, who is a resident of Rawalpindi/Islamabad, were sent to the NIH, which confirmed that he was infected with the disease,” the official said, adding that currently he was admitted at an isolation ward of PIMS.

Following the detection of two mpox cases, airports across the country have been put on high alert and airlines have been advised to report all the suspected cases to the border health services department at the airports. 

According to the WHO, Mpox is an infectious disease caused by the monkeypox virus — a species of the genus Orthopoxvirus. It can cause a painful rash, enlarged lymph nodes and fever. 

Most people fully recover, but some get very sick. 

The WHO has said that the common symptoms of monkeypox or mpox are a skin rash or mucosal lesions which can last 2–4 weeks and are accompanied by fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, low energy, and swollen lymph nodes. 

It can be transmitted to humans through physical contact with someone who is infectious, with contaminated materials, or with infected animals.

The disease is treated with supportive care. Vaccines and therapeutics developed for smallpox and approved for use in some countries can be used for mpox in some circumstances.