It is not just the new emerging COVID variants that continue to pose a threat; a new global viral threat has emerged with the outbreak of Monkeypox in as many as 17 countries. While Monkeypox is not like COVID - which is good news - World Health Organization (WHO) has only recently rung alarm bells and declared it a global health emergency.
Monkeypox is spreading across the US, the UK and Europe; Spain and Brazil are the first countries outside Africa to have recently reported first deaths due to the virus. At the same time Monkeypox strain has also been detected in India.
Monkeypox bears close resemblance with chickenpox and smallpox in that they spread in the same way i.e. close contact, respiratory droplets, skin lesions and contact with contaminated objects. It has similar flu-like symptoms and skin blisters and scathing as smallpox but is milder and less contagious; and is caused by a different virus than chickenpox. The incubation period before a person shows any symptoms is between 5 to 21 days
How much of it is a threat in Pakistan? No cases have been reported in Pakistan, but after the WHO's warning of a global outbreak, the National Institute of Health (NIH) has also issued alert to the provincial and federal officials and has directed the screening and monitoring of passengers at the airports. The local authorities should also ramp up process of acquiring smallpox vaccine as it has been approved by Europe and has shown 85 percent effectiveness.
Can it turn into a full blown pandemic? Chances of Monkeypox turning into a global pandemic are not high right now as the risk estimated by WHO is moderate at global level despite high risk in Europe currently. The COVID vaccine supply chains should be used by developing countries for a fair distribution of smallpox as well as any new vaccine for Monkeypox. All stakeholders including developed and the developing countries and producers should collaborate with WHO to guarantee that current and prospective vaccine is available and distributed according to public health needs as reasonable cost.