Monkeypox Claims First Victim in Pakistan

Pakistan has recorded its first death from monkeypox, a rare viral disease that can cause severe illness in humans. The deceased was a 40-year-old man who had returned from Saudi Arabia and was admitted to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) in Islamabad with multiple infections, including HIV and monkeypox. He died on Sunday morning, according to hospital officials.

Monkeypox is a zoonotic disease that is transmitted from animals to humans through contact with infected animals or their bodily fluids. The symptoms include fever, headache, lymph node swelling, back pain, muscle ache, fatigue and a rash that spreads from the face to other parts of the body. The disease has no specific treatment or vaccine and can be fatal in up to 10% of cases.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern on July 23, 2022, amid rising infection rates worldwide. Since January 2022, more than 87,000 confirmed cases and 130 deaths have been reported to WHO from 110 countries across all six regions.

Pakistan detected its first monkeypox cases in April 2023, when two passengers who arrived in Islamabad from Saudi Arabia tested positive for the virus. The samples were sent to the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Islamabad, which confirmed the presence of the virus. The identity of the patients was kept confidential.

In October 2023, five more suspected monkeypox cases were reported in Karachi, where five passengers who arrived from Muscat were diagnosed with the disease at the Jinnah International Airport. They were transferred to the infectious diseases hospital for isolation and treatment.

The Sindh health department issued an advisory to all hospitals to establish a designated separate area for isolation of monkeypox cases. The area should include appropriate infection control measures, hand hygiene facilities and personal protective equipment. The advisory also urged the public to be vigilant for the detection of any suspected cases and to report them immediately to the health authorities.

The federal government also alerted all the provincial governments to keep an eye out for any suspected case of monkeypox and ordered the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), a pandemic response institution, to ensure ongoing surveillance of both COVID-19 infections and monkeypox cases in the country.

The NIH clarified that no new case of monkeypox has been detected in Pakistan so far and steps to pre-empt a potential outbreak have been taken. It said that arrangements have been made at all airports, including medical screenings, to identify any infected passengers. It also advised the public to avoid contact with sick animals or their products and to practice good hygiene.

The NIH said that it was working closely with the WHO and other partners to monitor the situation and provide technical support for prevention and control of monkeypox in Pakistan.

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