ISLAMABAD: Officials from the National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHS, R&C) confirmed on Tuesday that two individuals who arrived in Islamabad on April 17, 2023, from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) have tested positive for Mpox (Monkeypox) virus. One of the individuals is reported to be a deportee from Saudi Arabia.
According to a senior official from NHS, R&C, both individuals had their samples sent to the National Institute of Health (NIH) for testing, which came back positive for the viral infection. The situation is being closely monitored by health authorities in Pakistan.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Mpox (monkeypox) is an infectious disease caused by the monkeypox virus. It can cause a painful rash, enlarged lymph nodes and fever. Most people fully recover, but some get very sick. “Since January 2022, cases of Monkeypox have been reported to WHO from 110 member states across all 6 WHO regions. As of April 25th 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 (Monkeypox), the samples of the said person, who is a resident of Rawalpindi/Islamabad, were sent to the National Institute of Health (NIH), which confirmed that he was infected with Mpox,” the official said adding that currently he was admitted at an isolation ward of PIMS.
When the authorities started contact tracing of the affected person, they found another person who was sitting next to the sick person on the flight from KSA to Islamabad International Airport, the official said adding that when the samples of the second person were sent for the test to NIH, he was also found to be infected with the Mpox.
The official said the airline which brought the affected person from Saudi Arabia acted extremely ‘unprofessionally’ and despite a request by the sick person, he was not shifted to any separate seat, which led to the spread of disease to the person sitting next to him. “We have raised this issue with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to take action against the airline,” he said without naming the airline.
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. On the other hand, all the provincial health departments have started establishing isolation wards at major health facilities in their provincial capitals to admit suspected and confirmed Mpox cases.
Meanwhile, training of healthcare officials to deal with infectious disease has also started.
Mpox (monkeypox) is a viral illness caused by the monkeypox virus, a species of the genus Orthopoxvirus. Two different clades exist — clade I and clade II. 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.