India confirms first monkeypox death in Asia

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India confirmed its first monkeypox death on Monday, a young man in the southern state of Kerala, in what is only the fourth known fatality from the disease in the current outbreak.

Kerala's health minister, Veena George, said that he had tested positive in the United Arab Emirates before returning to India.

"We were informed that the person had done a test on July 19 at UAE (United Arab Emirates) for monkeypox, and it was found positive. So, that moment itself the private hospital authorities, they informed the health department and our team went there and unfortunately that person died on July 30 evening," George said on Monday.

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India's federal health ministry had no comment on the death, except for saying that the government had formed a task force of senior officials to monitor monkeypox cases in the country, where local media have reported at least five infections.

Health care workers at Anna International Airport terminal in Chennai, India, screen passengers for monkeypox symptoms on June 3, 2022.

Health care workers at Anna International Airport terminal in Chennai, India, screen passengers for monkeypox symptoms on June 3, 2022. (ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images)

The World Health Organization said late last month 78 countries had reported more than 18,000 cases of monkeypox, the majority in Europe.

It says the monkeypox virus causes a disease with less severe symptoms than smallpox and occurs mainly in central and west Africa. The disease is transmitted from animals to humans.

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Human-to-human transmission happens through contact with bodily fluids, lesions on the skin or on internal mucosal surfaces, such as in the mouth or throat, respiratory droplets and contaminated objects.

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