The current monkeypox outbreak, which has infected 3,417 people in 42 countries, was declared a pandemic on Thursday by the World Health Network (WHN), a global collaboration of science and citizen teams.
The statement comes ahead of the World Health Organization (WHO) meeting on Thursday to decide on the designation of their monkeypox outbreak.
Citing Monkeypoxmeter, a website that tracks infection cases in real time, the WHN said there are now 3,417 confirmed cases of monkeypox reported in 58 countries, and the outbreak is rapidly spreading across multiple continents.
The WHN has urged immediate action from WHO and national disease control and prevention organizations to prevent monkeypox from becoming a disaster.
It said that although death rates are much lower than smallpox, unless concerted global action is taken to contain its ongoing spread, the infection will cause millions of people to die and many become blind and disabled.
“WHO urgently needs to declare its own Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) – the lessons of not declaring (Covid-19) a PHEIC immediately in early January 2020 should be remembered as a history lesson of late acting an epidemic could mean for the world,” Eric Feigl-Ding, PhD, epidemiologist and health economist, and co-founder of WHN, said in a statement.
“There is no justification for waiting for the monkeypox pandemic to grow further. The actions needed now only require clear public communication about symptoms, widely available testing and contact tracing with very few quarantines. Any delay will only make the effort more difficult and the consequences more serious,” added Yaneer Bar-Yam, PhD, president of the New England Complex System Institute and co-founder of WHN.
Until now, most cases have been in adults, but any spread among children will lead to much more serious cases and more deaths. Infections from animals, especially rats and other rodents, as well as pets, will make it much harder to stop. Passive waiting will lead to this damage without any compensatory benefit.
Monkeypox is a virus that can cause significant harm to the population, including an acute painful illness requiring hospitalization and leading to death, skin scarring, blindness and other long-term disability. The most vulnerable to serious illness are children, pregnant people and people who are immunocompromised.
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