Monkeypox, Health Minister and National Committee discuss preventive measures

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The Institute of Public Health’s National Technical Committee-Immunization Advisory Committee met on Monday morning to discuss preventive measures for the monkeypox virus. Ogerta Manastirliu, the Albanian Minister of Health and Social Protection, attended this meeting and spoke about the public health plan for this circumstance.

In the event of monkeypox cases, the Committee of Immunization Experts has recommended the smallpox vaccine for close contacts and health staff.

“The Committee of Vaccination Experts has made a decision, in the form of a recommendation, to allow the use of the smallpox vaccination in close contacts of cases that can be diagnosed with monkeypox.  A vaccination with an estimated 85 percent efficiency against monkeypox, according to research. Our specialists anticipate that it will be an amount that will be dedicated for this phase to extremely close contacts or even medical workers who may be affected by this ailment,” Manastirliu added.

Manastirliu stated that preparations are being made in the Public Health Institution laboratory for the diagnosis of monkeypox, and that he is actively cooperating with reference laboratories as part of the procedures implemented.

“We are preparing with the Institute of Public Health so that, using the PCR technology, we may have in Albania exactly the main samples that can also detect the diagnosis of monkeypox in our nation, in this laboratory.  We are currently coordinating with reference laboratories in London and the Netherlands to enable samples that may be questionable to be forwarded immediately, as we do with other cases of Covid-19 variations,” Manastirliu announced.

Although Albania is a low-risk country for monkeypox, Manastirliu underlined that active surveillance has been increased.

“As experts point out, we are a low-risk country.  But, because we have made active monitoring available for all infectious diseases throughout the country, including monkeypox, we have boosted active surveillance over the whole sentinel network. All necessary trainings have been completed on the medical staff in primary care, in the Local Health Care Units, to enable the timely identification of cases, which are then examined and seen if there will be cases with monkeypox through reference laboratories,” said Manastirliu.

Prof. Silva Bino, Head of the Department of Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases at IPH, emphasized that monkeypox disease poses a minimal danger to the general public and that immunization is beneficial for at-risk groups.

“On the problem of monkeypox, the Committee of Experts on Vaccination met, assessed the present situation in the world, the risk to the general population, which is generally low, not just in our country but in other European Union nations.  The Committee has decided to use the vaccine in addition to other measures such as isolation and other steps to prevent disease transmission through contact. Monkeypox does not have a specific vaccination, however it is believed that the vaccine used for smallpox is an 85 percent effective vaccine in preventing the disease, or preventing severe versions of the disease. As a result, it was discussed that for at-risk groups, we have the option of being vaccinated,” Bino stated.