India reported its first death due to monkeypox disease in Kerala on Saturday, ANI reported.

The 22-year-old man was a resident of Thrissur district in the state, The News Minute reported. He had returned to Kerala from the United Arab Emirates on July 21 and was admitted to a private hospital in Thrissur on July 27 after he developed encephalitis, fever and swollen lymph nodes.

State Health Minister Veena George said that it was revealed only after the patient’s death that he had tested positive for the monkeypox virus in Ras Al-Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates on July 19.

His samples were sent to the National Institute of Virology in Pune, which also confirmed the disease on Monday.

“As per the protocol, 20 people who were identified as being at high risk are kept under observation,” George said, according to ANI. “These include family members, friends and medical staff who might have come in contact with the deceased.”

George added that an inquiry will be conducted to know what led to the death of the man as the fatality rate in monkeypox cases is low. She said that the delay in sharing test results from the United Arab Emirates will also be investigated.

India has so far reported five cases of the monkeypox disease – one in Delhi and the remaining four in Kerala.

Monkeypox is a rare infection that is 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 zoonotic virus causes a mild illness and can result in symptoms such as high temperature, headache, backache and a chickenpox-like rash. The infection can spread if a person touches monkeypox skin blisters or uses clothing, bed sheets or towels of those suffering from the disease.

On July 14, the Union government told states and Union Territories to increase their vigil against the disease at international entry points, hospitals and other high-risk areas.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said that suspected patients should be screened and tested at points of entry and in the community. Isolating patients, providing symptomatic and supportive therapy and treatment for complications are among the measures that need to be taken to prevent deaths, he said.

On July 23, the World Health Organization declared the monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency. The classification is the highest level of alert that the World Health Organization can issue and is expected to force governments into action.

Centre forms task force to monitor virus

The Centre has constituted a task force to closely monitor the emerging situation related to monkeypox virus in the country, PTI reported on Monday. The team will decide on ways to curb the spread of the disease in India.

The task force will be headed by Dr VK Paul, NITI Aayog member (health).

The National Aids Control Organisation and the Directorate General of Health Services will work on a targeted communication strategy to promote timely reporting, detection of cases and management of cases.

Indian Council of Medical Research network of labs have been told to make arrangements to diagnose the disease.