WHO emergency committee meets on monkeypox

GENVA: A committee of experts from the World Health Organization will meet Thursday to discuss the monkeypox outbreak for the first time and decide whether it constitutes a global health emergency.
The one-day meeting, which would be held privately, was to start at 10:00 am GMTwith a statement on the outcome likely to be released on Friday.
Since May, a spate of monkeypox cases have been detected outside of West and Central African countries where the disease has long been endemic. Most of the new cases were in Western Europe.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has convened an emergency committee to assess whether the outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.
A PHEIC is the highest alarm the WHO can sound, among the International Health Regulations — the legally binding framework agreed by 196 countries for handling cross-border health events.
In addition to providing a PHEIC assessment, the committee members will advise WHO and its member states on how to better prevent the spread of the disease and how to better respond.
“The Emergency Committee will make a recommendation to the Director-General based on scientific principles and provide an assessment of the risk to human health, the risk of international spread and the risk of interference with international traffic,” the WHO said.
Tedros then determines whether a PHEIC should be declared based on their advice.
There have been six PHEIC statements since 2009, the latest for Covid-19 in 2020 – although the slow global response to the alarm bells still rings at WHO headquarters in Geneva.
Emergency committee meetings on the novel coronavirus outbreak were held on January 22-23, 2020, but the panel disagreed at the time that the PHEIC threshold had been reached.
A PHEIC was proclaimed after a third meeting on January 30. But it wasn’t until after March 11, when Tedros described the rapidly deteriorating situation as a pandemic, that many countries seemed to wake up to the danger.
This year, on June 15, there were some 2,103 lab-confirmed cases and one probable case of monkeypox, including one death, reported to the WHO from 42 countries.
But the WHO’s office in Europe and the EU’s health agency ECDC said 2,746 cases had been registered in Europe alone as of Tuesday.
“The monkeypox outbreak continues to primarily affect men who have sex with men who have recently reported sex with new or multiple partners,” the WHO said.
About 84 percent of cases have been found in Europe, with the majority of cases reported from Britain, Spain, Germany, Portugal, Canada and France.
The WHO says there may have been undetected transmission for some time before it appeared unexpectedly in multiple countries.
The UN health agency currently rates the global risk level as moderate, given the low death rate.
Tedros announced on June 14 that he would convene an emergency committee, describing the outbreak as “unusual and worrying”.

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