By Avinash Prabhakar
New Delhi, Aug 7 (IANS): The role of sexual behaviour has become a major point of debate since the World Health Organization declared the global monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, and the chief of the UN health body advising the MSM -- men having sex with men -- community to reduce the number of sexual partners.
The reasoning behind this is because the virus can transmit by any type of prolonged and substantial physical contact with a person who has the infection.
Dr Rajeev Jayadevan, Co-Chairman, national Covid-19 task force, IMA, told IANS that because sex involves deep and prolonged physical contact between two people, it provides an easier way for the virus to spread.
He however, said that high risk is associated specifically with those having multiple partners, because they can not only pick up the infection more easily, but also transmit the virus to more people.
"If an infected person has sex only with his wife, there is almost no chance to spread among others. The infection could be transmitted to the wife but it will not go to another person. But, if someone has multiple partners, it may transmit to others creating a chain of transmission," he said.
Putting a full stop on the misconception about the MSM community, he said that no one should be stigmatised about their sexual orientation.
"Four groups -- gay, bisexual, transgender and commercial sex workers -- are at high risk for transmission of monkeypox, but this risk involves only those with multiple partners through sexual networks. Over 95 per cent of the initial cases were from the MSM sub-group. The government's timely interventions have made them aware and there is no need for panic," Jayadevan told IANS.
On the question of whether India can experience a wave-like situation with monkeypox, he outrightly rejected and said this infection can never be like Covid.
"First of all, this is a slow spreading virus that spreads through deep prolonged physical contact only. Occasional spillovers will occur into the general population. But unlike Covid infection, spreading monkeypox infection through the air is rare", he said, adding that the path of transmission of this virus is different from the Covid.
So far, India has reported nine cases -- five from Kerala and four in the national capital.
One patient has been discharged from the hospital after recovering from the disease.
The task force on Monkeypox has reportedly laid out plans for developing the critical infrastructure needed for preparing an indigenous vaccine.
"Neither the doctors, nor the supporting ecosystem right now are equipped desirably enough by national or international entities, medical associations or academic institutions. Simply because it's all in a state of constant flux", said Dr. Mukesh Parmar, CEO of Docplexus, online communities of verified doctors.
He said that with the different strains of Covid, along with the more recent-in-the-news monkeypox and again on the rise swine flu and even hand, foot and mouth disease, doctors across all the specialties today are jostling with a plethora of unpredictable clinical scenarios.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya informed the Rajya Sabha that studies are still being conducted to find proper vaccination for the disease.
"Only contact tracing and vaccinating people who were in close contact with a disease carrier required to be vaccinated and there is no need for a country-wide vaccination for this disease," he added.