The outbreak of monkeypox, which has afflicted over 17,000 people in 74 countries, was classified as a global health emergency on Saturday by the World Health Organization, the highest alert it can issue.
In a news conference, WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated, “I have determined that the global monkeypox outbreak is a public health emergency of international significance.”
He said that a panel of specialists had met on Thursday but were unable to come to a decision, thus it was up to him to determine whether to raise the level of alert.
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The WHO has determined that the risk of monkeypox is moderate worldwide and in all regions, with the exception of the European region, where we have determined that the risk is high.
According to a count released on July 22 by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), monkeypox has afflicted over 16,800 persons in 74 nations.
Since early May, there has been an increase in monkeypox cases outside of the West and Central African nations where the illness has long been endemic.
Approximately a third of those affected were known to have gone to sex-on-site locations like sex parties or saunas within the previous month. Overall, 98 percent of those infected were gay or bisexual men.
Tedros has already voiced concern that scapegoating and stigma may make it more difficult to monitor the outbreak.
On Saturday, he said that because the outbreak was “concentrated among males who have sex with men, particularly those with several sexual partners,” it “may be prevented with the proper measures in the right groups.”
He pleaded with all nations to “cooperate closely with communities of men who have sex with men, to create and provide efficient information and services, and to implement policies that protect” the impacted groups.
On June 23, the WHO established an emergency committee (EC) of experts to determine if monkeypox qualifies as a PHEIC, the highest degree of alert recognized by the UN health organization.
But the majority told Tedros that the issue had not yet reached the necessary level.
With the number of cases increasing, a second meeting was convened on Thursday, and Tedros expressed concern.
Tedros addressed the lengthy meeting, saying, “I need your opinion in appraising the immediate and mid-term public health ramifications.”
Monkeypox is a contagious viral infection similar to smallpox that was discovered in humans for the first time in 1970. Smallpox was eradicated from the world in 1980.
The largest study to date, involving 528 participants in 16 countries, was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and found that 95% of cases were spread through sexual activity.
The use of Imvanex, a smallpox vaccine, to treat monkeypox was recommended for clearance by the European Union’s drug authority on Friday.
Since 2013, the European Union has licensed Imvanex, a medication created by Danish pharmaceutical company Bavarian Nordic, for the treatment of smallpox.
Due of the smallpox and monkeypox viruses’ similarities, it was also thought to be a viable vaccination for monkeypox.
Monkeypox’s initial signs include a five-day period of fever, headaches, muscle soreness, and back pain.
Following the development of rashes on the face, hands, and feet, lesions, patches, and scabs will then show up.
Agence France-Presse, 23 July 2022