The Centre on Tuesday directed all the states and Union Territories to send samples of suspected monkeypox cases to the National Institute of Virology in Pune for testing.

India has not reported any cases of monkeypox yet, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare added in a statement.

Monkeypox is a rare infection that is mainly spread by wild animals like rodents and primates in parts of west or central Africa, according to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service. The disease usually causes a mild illness and can result in symptoms such as high temperature, headache, backache and a chickenpox-like rash.

As of May 26, a total of 257 confirmed and around 120 suspected cases from 23 non-endemic countries have been reported to the World Health Organization.

On Tuesday, the ministry also released a set of guidelines on managing the disease on its website.

“As per the guidelines, a case is laboratory confirmed for monkeypox virus by detection of unique sequences of viral DNA, either by polymerase chain reaction and or sequencing,” the Centre said. “All the clinical specimens should be transported to the Apex Laboratory of ICMR-NIV [Pune] routed through the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme network of the respective district or state.”

After coming in contact with an infected person or their contaminated material, suspected cases should be monitored daily to look for symptoms for 21 days, the ministry said.

“The guidelines explain in detail about raising awareness and educating people about the measures for monkeypox virus like avoiding contact with any material of the sick person, isolation of infected patient from others, practicing good hand hygiene and using appropriate personal protective equipment when caring for patients,” it added.

The guidelines also explain how to transfer a patient in an ambulance, the duration of isolation procedures, among other things.

Monkeypox has been reported as an endemic in several other central and western African countries, the Centre said.

“These include Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, and Sierra Leone,” the ministry said. “However, cases have been also reported in certain non-endemic countries like the USA, United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Australia, Canada, Austria, Israel, Switzerland, etc.”

A disease outbreak is called endemic when it is present but also limited to a particular region.

Monkeypox will not turn into pandemic: WHO

The World Health Organization on Monday said that it is unlikely that the monkeypox outbreak outside of Africa, where it is typically found, will turn into a pandemic, Reuters reported citing an official.

“At the moment, we are not concerned of [monkeypox turning into a] global pandemic,” said Rosamund Lewis, technical lead for monkeypox for the WHO Health Emergencies Programme.

A pandemic happens when a disease spreads across countries and targets a large population.

Lewis said that there are still many details about the disease that are not known by the global health body, Reuters reported.

“Once monkeypox has been contracted, the duration of the rash emerging and scabs falling off is recognised as the infectious period,” she said. “But there is limited information on whether there is any spread of the virus by people who are not symptomatic.”

The WHO is yet to determine if monkeypox can be transmitted asymptomatically, Lewis added.

She, however, said she believes that its spread can be prevented, AFP reported.

“It is still possible to stop this outbreak before it gets larger,” she said. “I don’t think we should be scared collectively.”