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JEDDAH: Health authorities in Europe and the Americas have sounded alarm over the outbreak of monkeypox, with many declaring the outbreak a public health emergency.

In contrast, Saudi Arabia, which had only three confirmed cases, had a more muted response.

Saudi experts say there are several reasons for Saudi Arabia’s restrained approach. For example, the existence of well-established surveillance, detection, and preventive measures resulting from the response to previous infectious disease outbreaks, and the very low infection rates seen in the region.

especially in the Gulf region and Saudi Arabia to document the increase in cases and implement rigorous methods to detect them to ensure that appropriate preventive and treatment measures are taken to prevent the spread of monkeypox We know that much effort has been put into it. In addition to treating it immediately from a medical point of view, Saudi doctor Dr. Nawaf Al-Bali told Arab News.

Countries should implement appropriate surveillance and surveillance standards at their borders, strengthen screening, and improve diagnostic capacity both within and outside their borders.

Monkeypox, once a relatively rare disease, has occurred in a few countries in Central and West Africa since the 1970s, with occasional outbreaks of less than 100 cases over the past 40 years.

People with this disease tend to develop rashes on or near the genitals or anus, and on other areas such as the hands, feet, chest, face or mouth.

A rash goes through several stages, including crusting, before it heals. It looks like a pimple or blister at first and can be painful and itchy.

Other symptoms include fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, muscle aches, back pain, headache, sore throat, nasal congestion, and cough.

These symptoms usually begin within 3 weeks after exposure to monkeypox virus and usually last 2 to 4 weeks.

Authorities have detected dozens of cases in Europe, North America and beyond since May, bringing the number to over 28,000 worldwide.

Symptoms of self-limiting disease usually last 2 to 4 weeks. (Shutterstock)

The World Health Organization declared monkeypox a global health emergency on July 23rd. To date, at least 75 monkeypox deaths are suspected in Africa, primarily Nigeria and Congo.

On 29 July, monkeypox-related deaths were reported in both Brazil and Spain. This is the first reported case outside of Africa. Spain reported her second death the next day, and India reported her first death on August 1.

Saudi Arabia has detected only three cases of monkeypox among passengers returning from Europe.

Geographically, the United Arab Emirates has 16 confirmed cases and Qatar has two confirmed cases, indicating a much slower spread compared to the rest of the world. increase.

Monkeypox is transmitted when humans come into contact with the homonymous virus from animals, humans, or contaminated materials.

It is often spread through skin-to-skin contact and is often, but not always, transmitted through physical contact between men.

The ways it spreads are either through skin-to-skin contact, contact with certain bodily fluids such as sweat, or exposure to sensitive parts of the body such as the genitals or pubic area.

This kind of contact and this kind of intimate contact is much less common (in the Gulf countries). It doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but they are less common.

Health authorities in Europe and the Americas have warned of a monkeypox epidemic. (AFP)

Abdulaziz Al-Angari, assistant professor at King Saud bin Abdulaziz University of Health Sciences in Riyadh, said the WHO has declared monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern, but it has yet to become a pandemic. said no.

He told Arab News that the transmission rate is slow and limited given how the virus spreads.

A sufficient number of cases must be considered to calculate the odds ratio, a statistic that quantifies the strength of the association between two events. So far, there have been too few cases in Saudi Arabia to draw any conclusions.

More detailed information about the case, including research studies (demographic data, history, practices, travel information, etc.) is needed, said Al-Angari.

Saudi Arabia and several other countries are collecting such real-time data and taking necessary steps to prevent lessons learned from previous virus outbreaks.

In 2012, the first case of Middle East respiratory syndrome caused by the MERS coronavirus was confirmed in Saudi Arabia.

Studies have shown that humans become infected through direct or indirect contact with infected dromedary camels, but the exact route of transmission remains unknown.

This experience prompted the Kingdom to develop a detection and containment strategy and infrastructure, which was put into action in 2020 when COVID-19 emerged.

Registered pharmacist Sapna Patel demonstrates monkeypox vaccine dose preparation at a pop-up vaccination clinic. (AFP)

The Ministry of Health set up a command and control center and accelerated the establishment of the Saudi Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Our experience with MERS-CoV has been distressing and unique in our region.Between 2013 and 2015, health authorities have implemented measures to prevent disease, lockdowns, market closures, and measures related to camels. I understand the importance of certain commercial activities.

Therefore, we understand the effectiveness of early intervention when it comes to disease control. We have developed that capacity and sense of urgency around the world’s health systems.

Al-Angari reiterated the importance of early detection and documentation of cases.

This makes contact tracing mandatory to prevent future introduction of the virus to new populations.

While it may not be necessary now, using a system such as the Tawakkalna app could be considered at some point.

The Saudi Department of Data and Artificial Intelligence developed Tawakkalna to support the government’s efforts to combat COVID-19 by managing the process of granting permission to leave home during the lockdown phase. This helped limit the spread of the virus.

In June, the app won the 2022 United Nations Public Service Award for the organization’s resilience and innovative response to the pandemic.

Saudi Arabia understands the effectiveness of early intervention when it comes to disease control, according to Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Angari, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at KSAU-HS. (attached)

With travel demand soaring after COVID-19 restrictions were eased, Al-Angari stressed the importance of monitoring points of entry.

The (monkeypox) virus is transmitted from person to person, so all necessary measures should be taken, he said.

Not only for this disease, but for all future diseases, thermal camera operation is always necessary, and random medical examinations of people who have been in contact with animals on a regular basis are recommended to prevent zoonotic diseases. It is important.

As in the early days of COVID-19, infrared cameras installed in airport arrival halls are part of the syndromic surveillance process, the process of collecting, analyzing and interpreting health-related data to provide early warning of health threats. an integral part.

If the cameras detect one of the symptoms of the illness (such as an elevated temperature), the case will be quarantined at the airport, and other individuals who may have been exposed to the case should also be tested as part of Saudi precautions. Yes, said Al-Bali.

A case was detected in this way and an investigation was subsequently initiated, but so far no other cases have been detected.

Beyond monitoring, health officials should provide adequate information and guidelines to travelers heading to countries considered monkeypox hotspots, Albali said.

A major lesson learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is the growing community awareness of the virus and how to protect ourselves.

The same rule of thumb applies to this current outbreak. Although it remains largely unnoticed on Saudi Arabia’s shores, a transparent communication strategy by health officials continues to raise awareness levels and further protect communities from infection. future fads.

The United States, United Kingdom, Denmark, Spain, Germany, France, Canada, and others have begun the introduction of monkeypox vaccine.

However, it is unlikely to be distributed in Saudi Arabia unless there is a need to protect the most vulnerable, such as children, the elderly and the immunocompromised.

Al-Angari said a vaccine could be implemented. However, it’s not a current threat, at least in this region, so we don’t expect it to happen any time soon.

Sources

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2/ https://www.arabnews.com/node/2076351/saudi-arabia

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