The Punjab government is set to procure nearly 1,000 kits, antiviral drugs and vaccine to prevent onset of monkeypox.

It has also assigned tasks to the experts of the health and other departments to shift major focus on the international flights coming from African countries which reported the first case of monkeypox that later went viral in some other countries. The health department officials would hold meetings with the civil aviation authorities to devise a plan for the screening of the passengers/suspected patients of monkeypox.

“Most international flights carrying citizens of the African regions reach Pakistan through Dubai or Doha,” an official told Dawn. He said the decision was taken at a hurriedly called meeting of the public health officers and medical experts here the other day.The meeting was attended by Punjab Director General Health Dr Haroon Jahangir, Institute of Public Health (IPH) head Prof Dr Zarfishan Tahir and other public and medical health experts besides PML-N MPA Khwaja Salman Rafique (a former Punjab health minister). The meeting also approved other proposals/initiatives to scale up preventive measures, the official said.

It was informed in the meeting that the World Health Organization (WHO) and some other countries had shared with Pakistan the new guidelines to prevent onset of monekypox. The public health experts informed the meeting that the goal of the global response to the multi-country outbreak of monkeypox to stop the epidemic by taking drastic and emergent preventive measures.

They shared that according to the information gleaned from the health authorities of all the four provinces and other regions, no positive or suspected case of monkeypox was reported in any part of the country. While sharing some details, he said, 12 member states (all non-endemic countries) had reported confirmed and suspected monkeypox cases. The official said the meeting had decided to approach the global health bodies to make procurement of Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE) for use in Punjab’s hospitals and the laboratories.

It was proposed that nearly 1,000 kits should be purchased in first phase to provide them to the health workers, lab experts and doctors because of their exposure. The official said the meeting issued instructions to give priority to the doctors at the dermatology/skin departments of the teaching hospitals and the workers/experts discharging duties at government labs because of their physical interaction with the patients.

Later, the kits would be purchased in bulk keeping in view the burden of the disease or on the basis of the requirement. Similarly, the meeting also decided to make procurement of the anti-viral drugs and the vaccine for Punjab and the authorities had directed the Punjab government pharmacy and procurement directors to contact the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) and other departments to begin the procurement process.

Once made available, the vaccine would be administered to the selective/target population including the doctors, health workers, lab experts or those living with compromised immunity, the official concluded.

TRAINING: The government will provide training to the selected staff in each hospital of the province besides keeping a watch on any suspected case. This was decided at a consultative meeting of health experts held at the University of Health Sciences (UHS) and chaired by PML-N MPA Khwaja Salman Rafique.

Mr Khawaja said: “We are going to follow the advisory of the WHO as far as reservation of exclusive beds for the disease is concerned. So far, we have been told to keep a close watch through surveillance,” he said , adding that a room had been reserved in Jinnah Hospital and Children’s Hospital.

He further said the UHS would provide training to selected staff of hospitals from Monday. He said a committee had been constituted under the chairmanship of UHS VC Prof Javed Akram. Prof Akram said, “We need not be worried about monkeypox as it is a self-limiting disease, but what we need to focus on is to teach doctors about surveillance of the disease”. Monkeypox is similar to smallpox, but it is less contagious because the virus is still trying to adapt to the human body slowly. “The rising temperature is allowing the virus to adapt to a higher temperature and we may notice such outbreaks in the future which involve humans,”

Source: This news is originally published by Dawn

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