Tuesday, 5 July, 2022

Keep monkeypox at bay

Just when we thought that we had a break from the global pandemic of Covid-19, the outbreak of a rare disease like monkeypox in 30 non-endemic countries has raised a concern that may likely place the entire Bangladesh on another health watch. Little has been known about the new disease except that the virus does not spread as fast as the coronavirus, but has obvious symptoms and presently has no cure. No monkeypox case has been reported in the country, so far. But, considering the country’s open borders with India, it could be just a matter of time before the latest virus is detected here. We should learn from our past mistakes. Perhaps, everyone knows that it is because of sheer callousness of the health authorities and personnel at the country’s entry points, Covid-19 shot up sharply countrywide.

The fatal virus was first transmitted here from a group of returnee Italian expatriates. On arrival at Dhaka airport, instead of keeping the returnees in mandatory quarantine, they were allowed to leave with a promise of voluntary 'home quarantine.' On arrival at their village homes, they forgot the promise and freely mixed with local people putting their lives at great risk. According to an estimation of the WHO, 141,000 Bangladeshis had to pay the price of the health ministry's callousness through their valuable lives. All concerned should remain vigilant so that the past mistakes do not recur. Authorities should at once begin symptoms screening for travellers from countries where monkeypox has been reported. Travellers with symptoms must undergo quarantine for one or two weeks.

The harshest possible punishment should be imposed on on-duty personnel for any dereliction of duty. The UN agency prescribes preventive measures that are the same as those for Covid-19: masking, hand washing, disinfection of surfaces that are frequently touched, respiratory etiquette, distancing and avoidance of large gatherings. Law enforcers should strictly enforce rules to prevent the spread of yet another potentially deadly viral disease. Monkeypox spreads among humans through sustained close contact. This can happen through respiratory droplets, bodily fluids, skin lesions or contaminated materials. Both the government and public are advised to remain on alert for symptoms of the viral disease. This newspaper calls upon the state authorities to take pre-emptive measures to keep it at bay.