NEW DELHI: The Centre has constituted a task force to monitor the emerging monkeypox situation in the country even as Kerala confirmed the first death in the country from the disease and Delhi reported its second case, a Nigerian national with no recent history of travel abroad. Meanwhile, another suspected case emerged in Rajasthan.
The task force has been mandated to monitor and provide guidance on the expansion of diagnostic facilities and to explore vaccination for the infection, sources in the health ministry said.
Dr V K Paul from Niti Aayog, who spearheaded the policy framework to manage the Covid-19 pandemic, is one of the members of the task force. It also has Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan and other senior health officials as members, sources said.

The government’s actions come amid a constant rise in cases of the viral infection which was declared a public health emergency of international concern by the World Health Organisation recently. In India, officials said, six cases of monkeypox have been confirmed till date – four from Kerala and two from Delhi.
The newest confirmed case is a 35-year-old Nigerian national who is currently being treated at Lok Nayak hospital.
The first case of monkeypox in the capital was a 31-year-old man who did not have any travel history either. All four cases reported from Kerala had a history of travel to the UAE.
India’s first death due to monkeypox was reported from Kerala recently. The state health minister said a 22-year-old man, who had returned from UAE recently after testing positive for the infection there, succumbed due to the disease on Saturday.
A senior official in the health ministry said the government is monitoring the situation closely and taking steps in advance to deal with any potential crisis. “We have already issued detailed guidelines to the state on the management of monkeypox. Further, an expression of interest (EoI) has been issued by Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) inviting bids from private players to develop testing kits and vaccine candidates against the monkeypox virus. The task force’s role will be to expedite the process,” the official, who did not want to be named, said.
Monkeypox was first identified in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But for nearly 50 years after that, few cases of the viral illness were reported from outside Africa, where it is endemic. That’s why the sudden spread of the disease to non-endemic regions including the US, UK, Europe and India, among others, has taken everyone by surprise.
Experts say a continued growth of this outbreak means that spread to vulnerable populations is possible, including immunocompromised individuals and children. The implications of this are not yet understood. “Nosocomial transmission (infection acquired during the process of receiving healthcare) is an infrequent but avoidable consequence of unrecognised monkeypox infection in patients admitted to hospital. Disseminating awareness of atypical presentations is of vital clinical importance as failure to recognise monkeypox infection as a possible differential could pose a major risk to healthcare professionals and other contacts,” a study published recently in the British Medical Journal said.

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