Monkeypox spread: Airport staff directed to accelerate screening of passengers

monkeypox Pakistan

The Ministry of Health has directed authorities to speed up the process of screening passengers at airports, and set up isolation wards in hospitals to curtail the spread of monkeypox disease. The ministry announced that 87,000 confirmed cases of monkeypox have been reported globally so far. Globally, 119 deaths have been reported in various countries due to the virus.

In Pakistan, 22 samples of suspected cases have been referred to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Islamabad since May 2022. The first case of monkeypox in Pakistan has been confirmed by the NIH among travelers returning to Pakistan. The passengers had recently returned and have been isolated at the PIMS Hospital, the ministry said.

Sources said one of the two likely patients of monkeypox is under treatment at PIMS hospital where a dedicated isolation ward has been established. The spokesperson of the ministry, however, claimed there is still no evidence of local transmission of the disease in Pakistan. He said the risk of international spread of the monkeypox disease in Pakistan is low.

The authorities concerned have been ordered to improve screening of passengers at airports. However, sources said the issue has not moved beyond documentation, as the Islamabad airport employees have not been provided any safety equipment. The guidelines of the health department could also not be implemented for screening passengers, the sources further said.

At the Karachi airport, however, the screening of passengers has started, as health teams deputed there are checking arms and hands of passengers arriving from abroad. The medical staff is passing the passenger through a scanning machine after confirming suspicions of the disease, the sources said. Meanwhile, in view of the possible spread of monkeypox across Punjab, including Lahore, the Punjab Health Department has decided to establish isolation wards in all hospitals.