A 25-year-old Pakistani man is diagnosed with the contagious viral disease once known as monkeypox after recently arriving from Saudi Arabia.
Islamabad, Pakistan – The Pakistani health authorities have confirmed the first case of mpox in the country.
The contagious viral disease, formerly known as monkeypox, was found in a 25-year-old Pakistani man who recently arrived in Islamabad from Saudi Arabia.
Sajid Shah, a health ministry official, said the patient has been quarantined at a hospital in the capital and contact tracing has begun.
“So far there is no evidence of local transmission of mpox in Pakistan, and the risk of spreading the disease internationally from Pakistan remains low,” Shah told Al Jazeera.
He added that an alert has been issued to all airports in the country and to provincial health departments to ensure “surveillance, contact tracing and rapid identification of suspected cases”.
Mustafa Jamal Kazi, a senior ministry official, said the patient was placed in isolation on April 21 after his arrival in Pakistan.
“Because the patient was quite unwell, we sent him to a quarantine hospital here and ran tests to determine what was wrong with him,” Kazi told Al Jazeera.
He said that after mpox cases were detected in other countries, Pakistan increased its vigilance at all its international airports and deployed health teams.
“We have deployed trained personnel to the airports and they have been provided with necessary logistical support, including gloves, disinfectants and masks,” said Kazi. “WHO [World Health Organization] procedures and precautions and ambulances have also been deployed.”
According to the WHO, mpox is an infectious disease caused by the monkeypox virus. The disease can be transmitted from infected animals to humans or from infected humans to other humans through close contact and droplets. It can cause a painful rash, fever, sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes.
In May last year, a global outbreak of the disease was reported in Europe and North America.
More than 87,000 confirmed cases of mpox have been diagnosed worldwide since the beginning of last year, and more than 120 people have died, according to the WHO.
The United States leads the list with more than 30,000 cases and 44 deaths.
The WHO said the global outbreak mainly affected gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, as the virus spread from person to person through sexual networks.
While men who have sex with men are likely to be disproportionately affected, health officials stressed that anyone can get mpox.
Shah said 22 samples of suspected cases in Pakistan have been referred from various parts of the country since May and tests showed no sign of the virus.
“The Ministry of Health is closely monitoring the situation both at the national and global levels while keeping all relevant stakeholders on board to ensure preparedness, timely response and containment of mpox cases in Pakistan,” he said.
The mpox virus was discovered in Denmark in 1958, and the first reported human case was a nine-month-old boy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1970, according to the WHO.
The spread of the disease slowed with only sporadic cases found in Central and West Africa before an outbreak was reported in the US in 2003.