Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health is monitoring the global and regional epidemiological situation to ensure smooth management of a potential introduction of Monkeypox.
Health authorities in Qatar have carried out a series of public health measures for early detection of the Monkeypox virus, confirming that there are no such cases in the country so far.
In a statement, the Ministry of Public Health said it laid out directives to healthcare professionals in both the public and private sectors to monitor potential patients who may develop Monkeypox symptoms and report the cases to relevant health authorities.
The Gulf state is looking to place a tight grip on the possible introduction of the virus to its borders before a potential outbreak in Qatar, especially with the Covid-19 pandemic setting a precedent on viral outbreak management.
The health ministry explained that people are unlikely to contract Monkeypox unless they have recently traveled to Central or West Africa, or had physical contact with someone who has contracted the virus.
This comes as 12 countries have confirmed the detection of Monkeypox cases since May 13. Those cases, however, have been contained and have not spread within those countries.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said it expects more cases of Monkeypox to emerge globally as it extends its surveillance arm in countries where the disease is not usually found.
As of Saturday, 92 confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases of Monkeypox were reported from 12 countries that are not considered endemic for the virus, WHO said.
Germany, Belgium and France have reported their first cases of monkeypox, joining Australia, Canada and several other European nations in detecting the disease.
Monkeypox virus was confirmed by the German armed forces’ microbiology institute, which found the patient had developed skin lesions – a symptom of the disease.
Separately, the disease was identified in a 29 year old male in the Ile-de-France region, which includes Paris, who had not recently returned from a country where the virus is currently circulating, France’s health authorities said on Friday.
As for Belgium, microbiologist Emmanuel André assured in a tweet that the University of Leuven’s lab had identified four cases in the country.
Monkeypox cases in Spain have been linked to an event at an adult sauna in the capital.
Enrique Ruiz Escudero, the region’s cabinet minister for health of the community, said on Friday that health officials had traced many of Spain’s 30 Monkeypox cases to a single sauna in Madrid, according to The Telegraph.
In the United Kingdom, a case was first drawn between gay men and Monkeypox earlier in the week, with the UK Health Security Agency “urging men who have sex with men to be alert to any new rashes or lesions on their body.”
What is Monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a viral infection that occurs primarily in the tropical rainforest regions of Central and West Africa and may occasionally spread to other regions, according to Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health. The virus was first discovered in 1958, with the first human case reported in Africa in 1970.
However, this is not the first time the virus has spread outside of the bounds of the African continent. People who have contracted the monkeypox usually develop symptoms that include fever, a chickenpox-like rash, swollen lymph nodes, and other health complications.
Although Monkeypox belongs to the same virus family as smallpox, its symptoms are milder.
People typically recover within two to four weeks without needing to be hospitalised, however the disease can be seen as occasionally deadly.
The virus is spread by close contact therefore it is somewhat easily contained through precautionary measures such as as self-isolation and proper hygiene.
“Epidemiological investigations are ongoing, however, reported cases thus far have no established travel links to endemic areas. Based on currently available information, cases have mainly but not exclusively been identified amongst men who have sex with men seeking care in primary care and sexual health clinics,” WHO reported.
“What seems to be happening now is that it has got into the population as a sexual form, as a genital form, and is being spread as are sexually transmitted infections, which has amplified its transmission around the world,” said WHO official David Heymann, an infectious disease specialist.
#Monkeypox top trend in Qatar
The Gulf country’s local media is witnessing an onset of countless tweets centred around the rise of the virus, many of whom sharing concerns about it reaching Qatar.
The trending hashtag has also included various memes (an image or video usually considered humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by internet users, often with slight variations) by social media users.
One tweet read “Bye bye covid, you’re history old chum” with an attached photo meme of the concept of “fear” following the Monkeypox.
Future prospects of monkeypox
Kathy Bergin, an adjunct professor of Law at Cornell University Law School wrote that Monkeypox can likely elicit travel restrictions seeing as the WHO is pondering over an emergency declaration.
“No, the WHO isn’t about to declare an international monkeypox emergency – yet. We have to wait and see whether the WHO convenes its ‘Emergency Committee.’ Even then, the outcome will be hard to predict because the committee will have to consider not only the seriousness of the disease, but whether it is spreading across international borders.”
However, she argues, Monkeypox is a disease with a notably high mortality rate, therefore the committee will likely consider the possibility that it is spreading while going undetected.
“The WHO has convened its emergency committee nine times, and it has declared six international public health emergencies. The committee waited months before declaring an emergency for Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and of course came under scrutiny for delaying its response to COVID-19 in 2020,” Bergin noted.
“Those delays cost lives, so it’s possible a committee called together to consider monkeypox would be persuaded to move quickly this time.”