SL not facing immediate threat


Director of the Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Dr. Chandima Jeewandara says the Allergy Immunology and Cell Biology Unit (AICBU) at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, has all necessary infrastructure to test and diagnose monkeypox which has been detected in several countries.

He added that they have already ordered the necessary reagents which will arrive next week.

As the world continues to tackle the still present coronavirus, global concerns have been raised over the recent increase in monkeypox infections in different parts of the world.

Cases of monkeypox – a rare, little-known disease – are being investigated in European countries including the UK, the US, Canada and Australia.

On Friday (20) the UK confirmed the number of cases had more than doubled, bringing the total to 20. The UK Government has bought stocks of smallpox vaccines to guard against monkeypox.

Monkeypox is caused by the monkeypox virus, a member of the same family of viruses as smallpox, although it is much less severe and experts say chances of infection are low.

It occurs mostly in remote parts of Central and West African countries, near tropical rainforests and there are two main strains of virus – West African and Central African.

Monkeypox can spread when someone is in close contact with an infected person. The virus can enter the body through broken skin, the respiratory tract or through the eyes, nose or mouth.

It has not previously been described as a sexually transmitted infection, but it can be passed on by direct contact during sex.

The Epidemiology Unit of the Health Ministry reassured the public that there was no immediate threat of the viral zoonotic disease- monkeypox- to Sri Lanka unless someone happened to have any contact with a patient during foreign travel.

The Unit’s sources yesterday (22) said the chickenpox-like disease is not new to the globe and had first been detected in Central Africa. It was now found amongst a few isolated patients in the European region. It is also not highly fatal, they reassured.

Unlike Covid-19, there is also no risk of fast spreading. The World Health Organisation (WHO) issued warning after the virus was found in over 50 patients in Europe. Most cases had been identified amongst homosexuals, they added.

WHO issuing data said that Spain had 21 confirmed and 21 suspect cases of monkeypox, while Portugal had 23 cases. 20 cases of the disease have been detected from Britain. In Australia, there has been one confirmed case and one probable cases of the infection. Patents with the infection have been found in; Italy (2), Canada (2), Belgium (2), France (1), Germany (1) and Sweden (1).

The Organisation noted that those cases of monkeypox had been reported from amongst “gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM),” from the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, Portugal and Sweden.

It called for intensive public health measures in countries reporting cases. “Any patient with suspected monkeypox should be investigated and isolated during the presumed and known infectious periods, that is during the prodromal and rash stages of the illness, respectively,” it instructed.

WHO also urged countries to be on the alert for patients with unusual vesicular or pustular rash or swelling of lymph nodes often associated with fever, in a range of community and healthcare settings, including but not limited to primary care, fever clinics, sexual health services, infectious disease units, obstetrics and gynaecology, and dermatology clinics.

It also urged the public to refer to a health professional, any rash-like illness during travel or upon return. Also, information about all recent travel should be given.

“Travellers to monkeypox-endemic countries should avoid contact with sick mammals such as non-human primates -dead or alive, rodents, marsupials, that could harbour monkeypox virus. They should also refrain from eating or handling wild game. The importance of hand hygiene by using soap and water or alcohol-based sanitiser should be emphasised.

By Dilanthi Jayamanne and Dilini Madushanki