Monkeypox Travel Safety Explained By An Expert

With monkeypox cases crossing the 17,000 mark, here's how you can stay safe while you travel.

2 min read
Monkeypox Travel Safety Explained By An Expert

The World Health Organization declared Monkeypox a Public Health Emergency of International concern on Saturday, 23 July. This came after a sharp spike in Monkeypox cases around the world, with over 70 countries reporting a total of over 17,000 cases and at least five deaths.

Meanwhile, even as the world recovers slowly from the COVID pandemic and now faces the looming threat of monkeypox and other zoonotic viruses, Indian travel platforms have reported a huge upsurge in travel bookings.

Meanwhile, at least five monkeypox cases have been reported from India as of this report.

With airlines like Vistara and IndiGo reporting as much as 80% passenger load on their flights, are Indian citizens at higher risk of catching monkeypox? FIT spoke to epidemiologist Dr. Chandrakant Lahariya to get some answers.


Is there a high risk of contracting monkeypox while travelling?

What we need to remember is that Monkeypox is a contact illness. In a contact illness, there's no travel risk. Unlike COVID-19 where it's a respiratory illness and the virus transmits through the air, monkeypox doesn't spread through airborne transmission. So, the risk of catching it by even standing next to someone is unlikely. Unless there's close skin-to-skin contact, the risk of getting monkeypox is very low.

So, what precautions should you take to protect from monkeypox if you're travelling?

Unlike COVID, monkeypox is not airborne. Masking will not help. There's very low travel risk as such. Just avoid any close skin to skin contact with people or with a person who is infected with monkeypox. Usually this extends to safe sex practices and hygiene. Second, make sure you stay updated about the latest information in your city about monkeypox cases and make sure it's from reliable sources.

Finally, perform a self-assessment on your own health, whether you're immunocompromised, what your sexual behaviour is, etc.,

How dangerous is monkeypox?

For immunocompromised individuals, pregnant women, and children the symptoms of monkeypox could be far more severe. Outside of West and Central Africa, where monkeypox is endemic, over 17,000 cases have been reported. Out of these, so far, only one death has been recorded, from Brazil. The person in question suffered from a lymphoma and was immunocompromised. They suffered from a weaker immune system than many others.

High risk individuals need to protect themselves, but that's true for any disease, not just monkeypox.


Is there a vaccine you can take for monkeypox?

There are second and third-generation smallpox vaccines which can be used for monkeypox. Tecovirimat can be administered, but it's not available in India.

Tecovirimat is used to treat smallpox in some cases. However, Dr. Lahariya adds, this is a self-limiting disease. This means a patient recovers on their own usually without any management or treatment of symptoms needed.

So, long story short, there's a vaccine, but you're unlikely to need it or get it in India, unless you're immunocompromised or in another vulnerable group.

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