WHO declares the monkeypox outbreak in more than 70 countries a ‘public health emergency of international concern’.
The WHO designation of a “public health emergency of international concern” is intended to raise awareness that a coordinated global response is required and may mobilize funding and international cooperation on the sharing of vaccines and treatments.
Governments are urged to increase awareness among physicians and medical facilities, implement preventative measures in suspected cases, and instruct the populace on infection prevention.
Despite the fact that there was no agreement among the specialists on the emergency committee of the UN agency for health, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus decided to make the declaration. It was the first time the head of the UN health organization had done something like that.
Tedros acknowledged that the committee had been unable to come to an agreement, with nine voting against and six voting in favor of the declaration during a press conference in Geneva where he announced his decision to declare the health emergency.
According to Tedros on Saturday, “We have an outbreak that has spread rapidly throughout the world through new modes of transmission about which we understand too little and that meets the criteria in the international health regulations.”
He went on to say, “I know this has not been an easy or straightforward process and that there are differing views among the members.”
According to Tedros, there have been five fatalities and more than 16,000 reported cases from 75 different countries and territories.
According to Lawrence Gostin, founding O’Neill Chair in Global Health Law at Georgetown University and Director of the WHO Center on Global Health Law, “there are characteristic monkeypox rashes that [people] should be looking at, particularly if they’re in an elevated risk group and they’ve had sexual relationships or close physical contact with someone who might be ill.”
“To try and stop this in its tracks, contact tracing, widespread testing, and a strategic vaccination program should be implemented. However, the window for monkeypox containment is rapidly closing, and we worry that over the coming months, this disease could become endemic in Europe, North America, and other parts of the world.”(according to Gostin)
A global emergency is the WHO’s the highest level of alert, but the designation does not necessarily mean a disease is particularly transmissible or lethal.
WHO’s emergency chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, said the director-general made the decision to put monkeypox in that category to ensure the global community takes the current outbreak seriously.
Monkeypox has been prevalent in some areas of Central and West Africa for decades, but until May, when authorities discovered dozens of epidemics in Europe, North America, and other places, it was not known to cause significant outbreaks outside of the continent or to spread widely among people.
“Monkeypox is definitely a cause for concern. In five WHO regions of the world, monkeypox cases have increased exponentially, according to Gostin.
Outside of endemic regions in Central and East Africa, it occurs mostly—though not exclusively—within communities of men who engage in male-to-male sexual activity, but this should not encourage complacency. That community is very important and could easily spread to other communities, as the HIV epidemic has demonstrated.
Deaths from monkeypox have only been documented in Africa, primarily in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the virus is currently spreading in its most dangerous form.
In Africa, rodents and other wild animals carrying the virus typically do not cross international borders to infect humans during isolated outbreaks. However, monkeypox is spreading among people who have no connections to animals and haven’t recently visited Africa in Europe, North America, and other places.
The WHO expert committee met this week to reevaluate the situation after stating last month that the monkeypox outbreak did not yet qualify as a global emergency.