WHO declares monkeypox a global emergency

London – The World Health Organization said that The spread of monkeypox In more than 70 countries there is an “exceptional” situation that can now be considered a global emergency, and Saturday’s announcement could spur more investment in treating the once-rare disease and increase the scramble for rare vaccines.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the decision to issue the declaration despite the lack of consensus among members of the WHO’s Emergency Committee. It was the first time that the head of a UN health agency had taken such a measure.

“In short, 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.

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.

Declaration of a global emergency It means the monkeypox outbreak is an “extraordinary event” that could spread 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 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 contact with 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.

It’s surprising that the World Health Organization has not actually declared monkeypox a global emergency, said Michael Head, a senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, explaining that conditions were met weeks ago.

Some experts have questioned whether such a declaration would help, arguing that the disease is not severe enough to garner attention, 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 well-established sexually transmitted diseases In the country, such as gonorrhea, herpes and HIV.

“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.”

In the United States, some experts have speculated that monkeypox may become entrenched there as the latest sexually transmitted disease, with officials estimating that 1.5 million men are at risk of infection.

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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