Compared with healthy adults, complications associated with Monkeypox are more frequent in children and people who are immunocompromised, noted an article in the medical journal The Lancet, Child and Adolescent Health titled: The Monkeypox outbreak: risks to children and pregnant women. It added that those with an increased risk of bacterial superinfection, sepsis, keratitis, respiratory complications due to pharyngeal abscess and pneumonia, or encephalitis, too are susceptible.
The article further said that previous Monkeypox outbreaks had seen increased mortality and hospitalisation rates in children, even in high-income countries such as the U.S., in which the only two severe presentations during the 2003 outbreak were observed in the paediatric population. India is yet to register any case of Monkeypox in children and doctors here have so far dismissed the idea of increased threat to children stating that it’s very early to come to any conclusion on the matter.
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“Though not common in children, they are not immune to this dreaded disease. In the initial period of the epidemic they are more likely to pick up the infection from adult close contacts. However, once an infected child continues to go to school when infected but not yet diagnosed and isolated, he can become a source of spread to his classmates and friends. At present there is a need to educate the general public regarding the symptoms and preventive measures of Monkeypox,’’ said Dr. Krishan Chugh, director and HOD paediatrics, Fortis Memorial Research Institute.
The Lancet article also notes that all available smallpox vaccines offer good protection against Monkeypox infection and can be used for pre-exposure or post-exposure prophylaxis (action taken to prevent disease).
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Meanwhile, the Health Ministry in its guidelines, said that Monkeypox is usually a self-limited disease with symptoms lasting from two to four weeks.
“Severe cases occur more commonly among children and are related to the extent of virus exposure, patient health status and nature of complications. The extent to which asymptomatic infection occurs is unknown. The case fatality ratio of Monkeypox has historically ranged from 0 to 11% in the general population and has been higher among young children. In recent times, the case fatality ratio has been around 3-6%,’’ it said. It added that patients should be isolated and offered monitoring and treatment of complications.