DHAKA (THE DAILY STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – We are deeply concerned by the potential outbreak of another global pandemic after the World Health Organisation (WHO), on Saturday (July 23), sounded its highest alarm in relation to the monkeypox viral disease, declaring it a global health emergency.

Although a committee of experts voted 9-6 against sounding the highest alarm, the WHO’s chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus vetoed the decision, as he said he believed the “outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern”.

Previously, when the WHO first announced the Covid-19 pandemic as a global health emergency, Bangladesh, among other South Asian countries, showed little sign of taking the warning seriously. Therefore, we hope that policymakers this time will remain awake to the looming danger, and take preventive measures to ensure that citizens stay safe from the monkeypox virus.

Reportedly, around 16,000 people have so far been affected by the disease in 72 countries. Initial symptoms of infection include fever, headaches, muscle pain, and back pain over a course of five days. Rashes subsequently appear on the face, the palms of hands and soles of feet, followed by lesions, spots, and finally scabs.

The first case of monkeypox in South Asia was only recently reported in India, where a middle-aged man who arrived from the Middle East was diagnosed with the disease. Within 10 days of that, India has confirmed four monkeypox cases. With the arrival of the disease in South Asia and given how easily such diseases defy borders, Bangladesh needs to act fast.

The vast majority of cases recorded so far are suspected to have been transmitted sexually, but transmission of the disease may not be restricted to that. So it is incumbent upon the government to set up screening mechanisms at all ports of entry into the country, including airports, land routes, etc.

Moreover, the government should set up expert committees in order to find out as much information about monkeypox as possible, so that health authorities in particular, and people in general, understand the risks and possible preventive measures that can be taken.

As we discovered from the pattern of Covid-19 pandemic, trying to prevent transmission at the early stage is the best way to fight an outbreak. Additionally, having a prepared healthcare system would go a long way in fighting any potential outbreak, and save lives. The government should also consider fast-tracking the planned construction of a vaccine plant which will be useful for all vaccine-related purposes in the future – including developing our own vaccines against monkeypox if or when the need arises, which could potentially prove to be life-saving.

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