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HomeNationalPeople need not worry about monkeypox, vaccination harder than covid: top virologist ...
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People need not worry about monkeypox, vaccination harder than covid: top virologist MPNRC News

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India’s top virologist and vaccine expert Dr Gagandeep Kang told News18.com that the general public need not worry about monkeypox infection.

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India has so far reported nine cases of monkeypox – five from Kerala and four from Nigeria, including a 31-year-old woman from Delhi, and one death.

“Though monkeypox infection has caused some deaths, we need to dig deeper into the cases to understand a little more,” said Dr Kang, who is a professor of microbiology at Christian Medical College, Vellore.

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In some cases, she said, the deaths have been caused by viral encephalitis, a known but unpredictable cause of host death. Other deaths were among people with cancer or HIV.

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“With every virus, there is the possibility of encephalitis, not just monkeypox infection.”

Viral encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain caused by a virus, and its most likely complication is permanent brain damage.

Kang, who is the first Indian woman scientist to be elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, further added, “At present there is a form of transmission (of monkeypox) around sexual networks, although monkeypox is more likely to spread through skin-to-skin contact”.

“We know that monkeypox has been and is now not only in sexual networks, but in many situations of close contact, given the current pattern, there is a clear need for us to trace known sexual contacts of patients. Otherwise, widespread contact tracing is a very important tool, as it was in Covid-19.”

Also read | Monkeypox cases in Africa are not concentrated among gay men, experts say

According to her, extensive tracing will reveal the chain of transmission and “the sooner you find it, the less likely it is to spread – as we have learned in the early days of Covid-19 and many other outbreaks”.

“So, the trick is to “over-test” and in that case, if we find that only one or two infections out of 300 tests are caught, there is no reason to worry because it is unlikely to spread widely.”

“The good thing is that this disease is much less contagious than SARS-CoV2 and, therefore, the chances of control are better.”

Should we rush to find a vaccine?

According to Kang, who is a renowned vaccinologist, supporting the development of vaccines is always a good idea because the process helps to better understand the science but here, she believes “we are at the very beginning of understanding this virus”.

“We know that the smallpox vaccine also protects against monkeypox infection. However, we must also remember that smallpox vaccines have significant side effects in addition to their benefits.

Kang, who has achieved many achievements in the field of vaccines, including playing a key role in the development of India’s indigenous rotavirus vaccine, said, “Small pox vaccine ‘Genios’ has been made safer compared to other products”.

“For all smallpox vaccines, there are rare but serious side effects, including eczema vaccination, which causes extensive rashes, skin blisters, and systemic disease.”

Having a monkeypox vaccine is not as easy as it sounds, given that such vaccines carry significant side effects.

“With SARS-CoV-2, we knew that the spike protein was very important and that including it in vaccines was sufficient to provide protection. However, for smallpox and monkeypox, we use whole virus vaccines with known side effects.”

“Therefore, the safety bars should be higher than with SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.”

Also read | Monkeypox nagging you about flying? News18 explains why an infected fellow traveler cannot transmit the virus

Unlike with Covid-19, the need and approach to vaccination will be very different.

So, here, unlike with Covid-19, she advises, “we cannot administer these vaccines indiscriminately because we need to balance the risks and benefits.”

“However, the good news is that the disease itself is extremely rare, and self-limiting, and most people do not need the vaccine for monkeypox.”

A fresh covid spike is not a concern

According to an ongoing study led by Dr Jacob John at CMC-Vellore, where 1,200 people are being studied on a weekly basis from July 2021, there has been a slow but steady increase in infections over the last four to five weeks. , which stood anywhere between 1% and 3%. “Compared to the Omicron, the rise and fall is much less. A rate of 3% means that if you meet 30 people, one of them is infected,” Kang noted.

During the Omicron wave last winter, the same population was studied and a sharp increase in the number of infections was reported after a sharp decline over a six-week period. During the Omicron wave, about 50% of the cohort became infected.

Also read | Is Covid going up the graph? July cases exceed March-June, deaths rise, data shows

She pointed out that the increase in cases is likely due to new variants, mainly BA.5, and that these variants trigger immune defenses.

However, the scientist believes, “There is no need to worry because the majority of the population is dually vaccinated and is experiencing minor symptoms.”

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