WHO chief scientist says monkeypox virus is a ‘red flag’

New Delhi:

WHO chief scientist Somya Swaminathan said the monkeypox outbreak was a “red flag”. In an exclusive interview with NDTV, she explained that smallpox vaccination programs have been suspended since 1979-1980, noting that this may have helped the virus steal a rally around the world.

“The monkeypox outbreak was a wake-up call for us as we constantly have to prepare for deadly outbreaks,” she said.

The monkeypox virus is caused by the monkeypox virus, a member of the Osteomyelitis genus. The clinical presentation is similar to smallpox, a related orthopoxvirus infection that was declared eradicated worldwide in 1980.

The World Health Organization website states that vaccines used during the smallpox eradication program also offer protection against monkeypox. However, new vaccines have been developed, one of which has been approved to prevent monkeypox.

dr However, Swaminathan noted that the use of monkeypox smallpox vaccine could be beneficial, although more laboratory data is needed.

“The vaccine we have today against smallpox is the second and third generation vaccine, but there are very limited doses. Countries are stockpiling these vaccines in case of smallpox outbreaks, biological or accidental,” she said.

A company based in Northern Bavaria and Denmark has developed a vaccine against monkeypox, but there is no effective data. “There is an urgent need to collect data,” she said.

dr Swaminathan also said Indian pharmaceutical companies, including the Serum Institute of India, could play a role in the packaging, marketing and distribution of the current smallpox vaccine when it becomes widely available.

“We’ve talked about preparing for a pandemic, and one of the things is how quickly we can ramp up production. India will play a very important role simply because of the capabilities we have. So yes, in northern Bavaria there are 16 million cans that are part of the American inventory. The US has donated some of these cans to other countries…so we need to explore whether we can do the bottling at, say, SII (Serum Institute of India, based in Pune), but whether we can also transfer technology and start manufacturing to others places.

When asked if monkeypox could be worse than the new mutated Covid virus, Dr. Swaminathan, there can be no direct comparison.

She said that despite the lack of data, it is clear that monkeypox is a different virus and will not mutate as quickly as Covid.

“We have to do the same thing – sequencing and all. We need global data sharing,” she said. “Right now we have to prevent it from becoming a pandemic. We caught it early,” she added.

So far there have been four cases of monkeypox in India – three from Kerala and one from Delhi.

The World Health Organization, which declared monkeypox a global health emergency over the weekend, announced yesterday that more than 16,000 confirmed cases of infection had been registered in 75 countries.

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