Noida-based Priyanka was convinced that she had contracted monkeypox after she discovered red bumps and spots on her leg. The 28-year-old marketing executive said within a day other parts of her body also had spots.
"Since monkeypox was being discussed in news reports, I first thought I had contracted it. I was worried and looked for pictures and news about it. I called my doctor who allayed my fears but for me, the situation normalised only after the spots subsided and I realised it was a normal skin allergy," she told PTI.
Priyanka is not the only one to have panicked after seeing rashes on her skin. Hospitals in Delhi-NCR are seeing harried patients, who are developing allergies, rushing to them inquiring whether they have contracted the infection.
Delhi reported the first case of monkeypox on Sunday after a 34-year-old man tested positive for the viral disease. Due to increased awareness, people are coming to hospitals to confirm if their symptoms are related to monkeypox, which is being supervised under experts. We have been getting such queries and observing a rise in panic among people from the last seven to 10 days, especially after the first case of monkeypox was found in the country," said Dr Ramanjit Singh, visiting consultant, dermatology, Medanta Hospital.
The fear is especially among those people who have recently travelled abroad, Singh said. In the rainy season, people are more prone to viral infections and chickenpox cases are largely seen in this season along with other infections that have symptoms of rashes, and nausea, he added.
"Due to this situation, some patients are getting confused and misinterpret it with monkeypox. The patient may determine whether they have monkeypox or not by understanding the sequence and the onset of symptoms," Singh said.
Explaining further, he said monkeypox usually starts with fever, malaise, headache, sometimes sore throat and cough, and lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes) and all these symptoms appear four days prior to skin lesions, rashes and other problems which primarily start from the extremities like hand, eyes and spread to the whole body.
"If someone gets symptoms in this sequence, they should get examined for monkeypox. The boils that occur during chickenpox are filled with fluid and don't include malaise," he said. Experts unanimously stress that in monkeypox, there will be other symptoms along with skin involvement.
Dr Sachin Dhawan, senior consultant, Department of Dermatology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, said a woman recently visited him after her 10-month-old baby had a reaction following an insect bite.
"With increasing awareness through the internet, people are coming to us with queries about monkeypox if they have rashes or simple insect bite. There is no need to panic. The number of cases is relatively low. But if you have a doubt, it is better to consult the doctor," he said.
India has so far reported four cases of monkeypox, including three in Kerala and in Delhi. While three cases had a foreign travel history, the Delhi patient had attended a stag party in Himachal Pradesh. He is currently in LNJP Hospital and is on the way to recovery. Dr Pooja Chopra, senior dermatologist, Aakash Healthcare Super Specialty Hospital, Dwarka, said her colleagues in other parts of the country have seen cases of patients with atypical rashes accompanied by fever and joint pains.Stressing that being vigilant and alert is the key, she concurred with her counterparts that patients are confusing skin allergy with monkeypox. "Look out for symptoms like atypical rashes, fever, joint pain, generalised weakness, in case you suspect you have the infection, she added.