The rapidly spreading monkeypox outbreak represents a global health emergency, the World Health Organization’s highest alert level, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said today.
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) July 23, 2022
The WHO label – a “public health emergency of international concern” – aims to raise the alarm that a coordinated international response is needed and could unlock funding and global efforts to work together to share vaccines and treatments .
Members of a committee of experts meeting Thursday to discuss the potential recommendation were divided over the decision, two sources who spoke on condition of anonymity previously told Reuters, but the final decision rests with the UN agency’s director-general. .
During a media briefing in Geneva, Tedros announced his decision to declare the health emergency. He confirmed that the committee had not reached a consensus, with nine members against and six in favor of the statement.
Previously, Tedros endorsed the recommendations of expert committees, but the sources said he likely decided to support the highest alert level due to concerns about the escalating cases and shortages of vaccines and treatments, despite the lack of a majority position.
Lawrence Gostin, a Georgetown Law professor in Washington, DC who follows the WHO, said he applauds the agency’s political courage.
“It does nothing but polish the status of the WHO. The correct result is clear – not declaring a state of emergency at this time would be a historic missed opportunity.”
So far this year there have been more than 16,000 cases of monkey pox in more than 75 countries and five deaths in Africa so far.
The viral illness — which spreads through close contact and tends to cause flu-like symptoms and pus-filled skin lesions — has mainly spread among men who have sex with men, outside Africa, where it is endemic during the recent outbreak.
Until now, the label had only been applied to the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing efforts to eradicate polio.
The WHO and national governments are under heavy pressure from scientists and public health experts to take more action against monkey pox.
Cases of the viral disease have exploded since the committee first met in late June, when there were only about 3,000 cases.
At the time, the expert group agreed to reconsider their stance on the emergency declaration should the outbreak escalate.
One of the key issues that prompted a reassessment was whether cases — which are increasing almost entirely among men who have sex with men — would spill over into other groups, particularly children or others who have been vulnerable to the virus in previous outbreaks in endemic areas. to land.
On Friday, the United States identified the first two cases of monkeypox in children.
Any change in the virus itself could also trigger a reconsideration, the committee had said.
The group is now split between those who believe an emergency declaration would accelerate efforts to contain the disease, and those who believe the above criteria have not been met because the disease has not yet spread to new groups of people or a high death rate, the sources said.
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