Dhaka airport on high alert over monkeypox

The virus has so far been identified in 12 countries

Dhaka airport is on high alert as monkeypox, a viral zoonotic disease, is on the rise in several countries across the world. 

In a bid to prevent the virus, which is yet to be found in Bangladesh, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) has beefed up the screening process, especially for passengers coming in from countries where cases have been detected. 

The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), in a directive issued on Saturday, asked health officials to undertake strict thermal screening for suspected international passengers with any history of travel to monkeypox-affected countries. 

Dhaka Tribune

Soon after the civil aviation regulatory body strengthened precautionary measures to protect public health.

Monkeypox has so far been reported in 12 countries between May 12 and May 21, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Cases have been detected in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Netherlands, United Kingdom, United States, Canada, and Australia. 

However, no cases have yet been identified in any Asian countries. 

Dhaka Tribune

Monkeypox occurs primarily in tropical rainforest areas of Central and West Africa and is occasionally exported to other regions. 

According to the WHO, Monkeypox typically presents clinically with fever, rash and swollen lymph nodes, back pain, muscle aches, and intense asthenia meaning lack of energy, and may lead to a range of medical complications. 

There is no direct air connectivity with African countries, many people travel as transit passengers, CAAB Chairman Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman told Dhaka Tribune. 

“However, in this situation, if any passenger comes from those countries directly or as a transit passenger, we will take precautionary measures according to the directives of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS),” he added. 

The CAAB chief said that they were observing the situation and any decision on travel restrictions will be taken if the WHO, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), or the International Air Transport Association (IATA) issues any notice. 

“The health policy and guidelines are strictly adhered to in the case of incoming and outgoing passengers always no matter what country they come from or depart,” said Group Captain Muhammed Kamrul Islam, executive director of Dhaka airport. 

Saying that the airport health department will implement any DGHS directive, he added that there is adequate equipment and manpower to handle the situation. 

DGHS directives at ports, airports

In its directives, the DGHS has asked port authorities to isolate symptomatic international travelers arriving from WHO-listed 12 countries. The samples should then be sent to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR).

However, monkeypox cases are being detected among the people who did not travel to those countries. Hence, all airport health and land port/border officials have to always be on alert. 

They are to make a list of patients with symptoms are found and to send it to the nearest government hospital or disease control hospital and arrange isolations. 

On May 13, WHO was notified of two laboratory-confirmed cases and one probable case of monkeypox, from the same household, in the United Kingdom.  

On May 15, four additional laboratory-confirmed cases were reported amongst Sexual Health Services attendees presenting with vesicular rash illness in sexually active gay men.

CAAB latest health advisory

On April 20, the CAAB updated its travel instructions, making it mandatory for incoming passengers to fill in a health declaration form online 72-hours prior to their departure. The form must be submitted at immigration. 

The health declaration form can be found at http://healthdeclaration.dghs.gov.bd.

The DGHS has been requested to include information on people recently visiting monkeypox-affected countries in its health declaration form.