With several cases of monkeypox being reported worldwide, including in neighbouring India, doctors noted that it was only a matter of time before cases started to be reported in Sri Lanka too.
Media Committee Member of the Government Medical Officers’ Association (GMOA), Dr. Chamil Wijesinghe yesterday (7), fielding questions, said that surveillance should be hiked in places of entry to the island.
Surveillance at airports and harbours should be increased. That means even fishing harbours should be under surveillance if cases were not to be missed. There was a risk of the monkeypox reaching Sri Lanka even with the drug smuggling activities that were taking place.
“It’s very much like Covid-19, where suspect cases with fever symptoms should be identified before they enter the country through the entry points,” he observed. The current situation in Sri Lanka may aid the highly infectious disease -although not a major risk like corona it would spread fast. The public transport service alone, in which the majority of people have to travel due to the fuel situation, was one high risk area as highly congested buses and train carriages with the presence of even one case of monkeypox could prove a heavy risk, he cautioned.
The GMOA Media Committee member said however that the Health Ministry had taken action to beef monkeypox surveillance at the points of entry to the country.
The Health Ministry issued a circular to the Deputy Directors General of National Hospital, Colombo and Kandy, Provincial and Regional Directors of Health Services, and the heads of Health Institutions, on ‘Surveillance, notification, investigation and laboratory testing of cases of monkeypox virus.’
Director General Health Services (DGHS), Dr. Asela Gunawardena said that once a suspect case was identified, all health care institutions should report immediately to the Chief Epidemiologist of the Epidemiology Unit. Also the Epidemiology Unit could be contacted for any clarification or assistance.
Dr. Gunawardena further noted that hospital admission of a suspect or probable case of the virus should be decided by the clinician following a thorough evaluation of the patient. Contact tracing should be initiated by the public health authorities with the guidance of the Epidemiology Unit, he noted.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared monkeypox a Public Health Emergency of International Concern which has prompted the Health Ministry to strengthen its surveillance activities to identify, notify and manage any suspected case of the virus in a bid to “prevent a spread in the country,” the DGHS stated.
By Dilanthi Jayamanne