Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistani health authorities have confirmed the first case of mpox in the country.
The infectious viral disease, earlier known as monkeypox, was found in a 25-year-old Pakistani man who recently arrived in Islamabad from Saudi Arabia.
Sajid Shah, a health ministry official, said the patient has been quarantined in a hospital in the capital and contact tracing has begun.
“As yet there is no evidence of localised transmission of mpox in Pakistan, and the risk of international spread of disease from Pakistan remains low,” Shah told Al Jazeera.
He added that an alert has been issued to all airports in the country and to provincial health departments to ensure “surveillance, contact tracing and rapid identification of suspected cases”.
Mustafa Jamal Kazi, a senior official in the ministry, said the patient was sent into isolation on April 21 after his arrival in Pakistan.
“As the patient was quite unwell, we sent him to quarantine in a hospital here and conducted tests to determine what was wrong with him,” Kazi told Al Jazeera.
He said after mpox cases were detected in other countries, Pakistan increased its vigilance at all its international airports and deployed health teams.
“We have trained staff deployed at the airports, and they have been provided required logistics support, such as gloves, disinfectants, masks, among others,” Kazi said. “WHO [World Health Organization] procedures and precautionary measures and ambulances have been deployed as well.”
According to the WHO, mpox is an infectious disease caused by the monkeypox virus. The disease can be transmitted from infected animals to humans or from infected people to other people through close contact and droplets. It can cause a painful rash, fever, sore throat and swollen lymph nodes.
A global outbreak of the disease was reported in May last year across Europe and North America.
According to the WHO, more than 87,000 confirmed cases of mpox have been detected globally since the beginning of last year and more than 120 people have died.
The United States leads the tally with more than 30,000 cases and 44 deaths.
The WHO said the global outbreak primarily affected gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men as the virus spread person-to-person through sexual networks.
However, while men who have sex with men are likely to be disproportionately affected, health officials stressed that anybody can contract mpox.
Shah said that since May, 22 samples from suspected cases in Pakistan were referred from different parts of the country and tests showed no sign of the virus.
“The health ministry is vigilantly monitoring the situation both at the national and global levels while keeping all the relevant stakeholders onboard for ensuring preparedness, timely response and containment of mpox cases in Pakistan,” he said.
The mpox virus was discovered in Denmark in 1958, and its first reported human case was a nine-month-old boy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1970, according to the WHO.
The spread of the disease slowed with only sporadic cases found in Central and West Africa before an outbreak was reported in the US in 2003.