UN global health official declares monkeypox a global emergency

The head of the World Health Organization said the increasing outbreak of monkeypox in more than 70 countries is an “exceptional” situation that can now be considered a global emergency, a declaration on Saturday that could spur more investment in treating the once-rare disease and exacerbate it. badly. The scramble for rare vaccines.

Who is the. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the decision to make the announcement despite the lack of consensus among experts working on the UN health agency’s emergency committee. It was the first time that the head of a UN health agency had taken such a measure.

“We have an outbreak that has spread across the world rapidly with new modes of transmission of which we understand very little and that meet the standards of the International Health Regulations,” Tedros said.

“I know that this was not an easy or straightforward process and that there are divergent views among the members” of the committee, he added.

The global emergency is the WHO’s highest level of alert, but the designation does not necessarily mean the disease is transmissible or particularly deadly. WHO’s head of emergencies, Dr Michael Ryan, said the director-general made the decision to put monkeypox in that category to ensure the global community takes the current outbreaks seriously.

Although monkeypox has been present in parts of Central and West Africa for decades, it was not known to cause large outbreaks outside the continent or spread widely among people until May, when authorities discovered dozens of epidemics in Europe, North America and elsewhere.

The declaration of a global emergency means that the monkeypox outbreak is an “exceptional event” that could extend to more countries and require a coordinated global response. The World Health Organization has previously declared emergencies for public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the Zika virus in Latin America in 2016, and ongoing efforts to eradicate polio.

The emergency declaration is often a plea to attract more global resources and attention to the outbreak. Previous announcements have had a mixed effect, given that the UN health agency is largely incapable of getting countries to act.

Last month, the World Health Organization’s panel of experts said the worldwide outbreak of monkeypox did not rise to the level of an international emergency, but the panel met this week to reassess the situation.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 16,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in 74 countries since about May. So far, monkeypox deaths have only been reported in Africa, where a more serious type of virus is spreading, particularly in Nigeria and Congo.

In Africa, monkeypox is mainly spread to people from infected wild animals such as rodents, in limited outbreaks that usually did not cross borders. However, in Europe, North America and elsewhere, monkeypox is common among people who have no connection to animals or who have recently traveled to Africa.

The World Health Organization’s chief monkeypox expert, Dr Rosamund Lewis, said this week that 99% of all monkeypox cases outside Africa were in men and that 98% of them were men who had sex with men. Experts believe that monkeypox outbreaks in Europe and North America were spread by delirium sex in Belgium and Spain.

“Although I am declaring a public health emergency of international concern at the moment, this is an outbreak that is concentrated among men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners,” Tedros said. “This means that this is an outbreak that can be stopped with the right strategies in the right groups.”

Emergency Chief Ryan explained the foregoing Director General’s decision:

“[Tedros] He found that the committee had not reached consensus, even though there was a very open, very useful and very thoughtful discussion on the issues, and that since he does not conflict with the committee, what he is aware of is that there are profound complexities in this issue,” Ryan said. It reflects this uncertainty and its determination that the event be a ‘global emergency’.

Before Saturday’s announcement, Michael Head, a senior researcher in global health at the University of Southampton, said it was surprising that the World Health Organization had not actually declared monkeypox a global emergency, explaining that the conditions had been met weeks before.

Some experts have questioned whether such a declaration would help, arguing that the disease is not severe enough to warrant interest, and that rich countries fighting monkeypox already have the funds to do so; Most people recover without needing medical attention, although the lesions can be painful.

“I think it would be better to be proactive and overreact to a problem than to wait for a response when it’s too late,” Head said. He added that the WHO’s emergency declaration could help donors such as the World Bank raise funds to stop outbreaks in both the West and Africa, where the animals are likely to be the natural reservoir for monkeypox.

In the United States, some experts have speculated whether monkeypox is about to become an established sexually transmitted disease in the country, such as gonorrhea, herpes, and HIV. Officials have estimated that 1.5 million men are at risk of infection.

“The bottom line is that we have seen a shift in the epidemiology of monkeypox where there is now widespread and unexpected transmission,” said Dr. Albert Koe, professor of public health and epidemiology at Yale University. “There are some genetic mutations in the virus that suggest why this is happening, but we need a globally coordinated response to get it under control,” he said.

Koe called for a rapid increase in testing, saying that similar to the early days of COVID-19, there were significant gaps in monitoring.

“The cases we’re seeing are just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “The window may have closed quickly for us to stop the outbreak in Europe and the United States, but it’s not too late to prevent monkeypox from causing massive damage to poor countries that lack the resources to deal with it.”

Dr Placid Mbala, a virologist who directs the global health department at the Congolese National Institute for Biomedical Research, said he hoped any global effort to stop monkeypox would be fair. Although countries such as Britain, Canada, Germany and the United States have requested millions of doses of the vaccine, none have gone to Africa.

“The solution has to be global,” Mbala said, adding that any vaccines sent to Africa would be used to target those most at risk, such as fishermen in rural areas.

“Vaccination in the West may help stop the outbreak there, but there will still be cases in Africa,” he said. “Unless the problem here is resolved, the danger to the rest of the world will remain.”

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