Monkeypox is now a global emergency, says the World Health Organization

Monkeypox is now a global public health emergency, World Health Organization chief decided on saturday. The viral illness is officially a public health emergency of international concern, which puts it in the same league as poliomyelitis and COVID-19.

In May, clusters of monkeypox cases have been detected in the UK and Europe. Since then, 16,836 cases of monkeypox have emerged in 74 countries, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Monkeypox epidemics have always been much smaller and have occurred in central and western Africa.

“The cases we are seeing are just the tip of the iceberg,” Albert Ko told the Associated Press. Ko is a professor of public health and epidemiology at Yale University. “The window has probably closed for us to quickly stop epidemics in Europe and the United States, but it is not too late to prevent monkeypox from causing enormous damage to poorer countries without the resources to deal.”

There are two types of circulating monkeypox in humans. One is more serious and has a 10% mortality rate – currently it has only been detected in Africa. The version that appears to be causing the global outbreak is a milder strain that is rarely fatal. Both versions cause fever and a rash that can be painful. Monkeypox viruses can be transmitted through close contact with an infected person or with infected bodily fluids, although scientists are still working to understand what is driving this surge in cases. The vast majority of cases in the current outbreak have occurred in men, and particularly in men who have sex with men, WHO says. He notes that there has also been an increase in cases in parts of Africa, where monkeypox patients include more women and children.

The WHO statement could theoretically help countries strengthen their public health response. He came up with recommendations on how different countries should respond to the virus, whether they have already detected cases or not. Unlike COVID-19, monkeypox is a known quantity. There are tests and vaccines for this virus, and although there are no specialized treatments, some antivirals can work on the disease.

But the statement itself has been the subject of debate for weeks, not least because the virus appears to be having very different impacts on people around the world. In Europe and the United States, the virus is mild and countries buy vaccines to distribute them. In Africa, where the cases are fewer but more serious, no vaccine has been sent, the Meadows associatedreports.

Last June, a group of experts took the controversial decision that monkeypox was not eligible as a global public health emergency. The WHO defines this type of emergency as “an extraordinary event, which poses a public health risk to other States through international spread, and which potentially requires a coordinated international response”. Today the panel reconvened and was split on whether monkeypox actually met those criteria.

Members of the WHO panel who were in favor of today’s statement felt that it met those standards. They also noted that they had a “moral duty to deploy all means and tools available to respond to the event”, citing LGBTI+ leaders around the world who are particularly concerned that this disease disproportionately affects their communities. They pointed out that “the currently most affected community outside of Africa is the same one originally reported to be affected in the early stages of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.” At the start of this pandemic, the disease was ignored and stigmatized because it was associated with homosexuals.

Panel members who were not in favor said the outbreak conditions had remained unchanged since their last meeting in June, when they decided not to issue an emergency declaration. They pointed to the fact that the disease in most parts of the world was mild and may be starting to stabilize in some countries. They also mentioned being concerned about the stigma an emergency health declaration could cause “especially in countries where homosexuality is criminalized.” Yet another concern was extremely limited worldwide supply monkeypox vaccines. People who opposed the declaration said they were concerned that declaring an emergency would increase demand for vaccines, even among people who are not at risk, which would strain the supply. in vaccines.

In the end, even though the panel was divided, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of the WHO decided that it was worth declaring an emergency. “We have an epidemic that has spread rapidly around the world through new modes of transmission, which we understand too little and which meet the criteria,” said Tedros, according The New York Times.

Aubrey L. Morgan