The World Health Organization declared the growing monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency on Sunday, with the agency’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, describing it as an extraordinary situation given how the virus has spread to more than 75 people. to land.
The WHO label — a “public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC)” — is designed to trigger a coordinated international response and could unlock funding to collaborate on vaccine and treatment sharing . However, the warning does not necessarily mean that a disease is particularly transmissible or fatal.
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The PHEIC label, developed in the wake of the first Sars virus outbreak, has been used seven times, with Covid-19 being the most recent outbreak classified as such. That classification was criticized as being late.
Ghebreyesus made the decision to call monkeypox a global emergency despite a lack of consensus among experts in the UN health organization’s emergency committee, saying he was acting as “a draw”.
Members of a committee of experts that met on Thursday to discuss the potential recommendation were divided over the decision, with nine opposing and six in favor of the statement.
“We have an outbreak that has spread rapidly around the world through new modes of transmission, of which we understand too little,” Tedros told a media briefing in Geneva.
“While I declare a public health emergency of international concern, this is currently an outbreak that is centered on men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners,” he said, warning not to contract the disease. to associate with groups of people. “Stigma and discrimination can be as dangerous as any virus.”
He said the risk of monkey pox was moderate worldwide, except in Europe, where the WHO considered the risk high.
Similar statements were made for the 2016 Zika virus in Latin America and the ongoing efforts to eradicate polio, in addition to the Covid-19 pandemic and the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. But this is the first time that a head of a UN health organization has unilaterally made such a decision without an expert recommendation.
The head of the WHO, Dr. Michael Ryan, said the Director General has declared monkeypox a global emergency to ensure the world takes the current outbreaks seriously.
Although monkeypox has been identified for decades in parts of central and western Africa, it was not known to lead to major outbreaks outside the continent or to spread widely among humans until May, when authorities discovered dozens of epidemics in Europe, northern Africa. America and elsewhere.
Last month, the WHO’s committee of experts said the monkeypox outbreak did not yet amount to an international emergency, but the panel met this week to re-evaluate the situation.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 16,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in 75 countries since about May.
A viral infection similar to smallpox, first discovered in humans in 1970, monkeypox is less dangerous and contagious than smallpox, which was eradicated in 1980.
In Africa, monkeypox spreads primarily to humans through infected wildlife such as rodents in limited outbreaks that have typically not crossed borders. However, in Europe, North America and elsewhere, monkeypox is spreading among people who have no ties to animals or who have recently traveled to Africa.
WHO’s top monkey pox expert, Dr. Rosamund Lewis, said this week that 99% of all monkey pox cases outside of Africa were in men and 98% were men who have sex with men.
Three confirmed cases of the viral infection have been reported from India – all three patients recently traveled to the UAE and returned to Kerala – prompting the government to review the screening of international travelers.
WHO’s Tedros called on the world to “act together in solidarity” regarding the distribution of treatments, tests and vaccines for monkeypox. The UN agency has previously said it is working to create a vaccine-sharing mechanism for the most affected countries, but offered few details on how it might work. Unlike the many companies that made Covid-19 vaccines, there is only one manufacturer for the vaccine used against monkeypox, the Bavarian Nordic Denmark.
The European Union drug watchdog on Friday recommended the use of Imvanex, a smallpox vaccine, for the treatment of monkeypox for approval.
The first symptoms of monkey pox are fever, headache, muscle aches and back pain for five days.
Rashes then appear on the face, palms and soles, followed by lesions, spots and finally scabs.