Monkeypox is now a global public health emergency, the head of the World Health Organization concluded on Saturday. The viral disease is officially a public health emergency of international concern, putting it in the same league as polio and COVID-19.
Clusters of monkey pox cases were discovered in the UK and Europe in May. Since then, 16,836 cases of monkeypox have emerged in 74 countries, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Outbreaks of monkeypox have historically been much smaller and have occurred in Central and West Africa.
“The cases we are seeing are just the tip of the iceberg,” Albert Ko told the… Associated Press. Ko is a professor of public health and epidemiology at Yale University. “The window is probably closed for us to quickly stop the outbreaks in Europe and the US, but it’s not too late to stop monkeypox from wreaking havoc on poorer countries without the resources to deal with it.”
There are two types of monkey pox that circulate in humans. One is more serious and has a 10 percent fatality rate – currently it has only been discovered in Africa. The version that seems to be causing the global outbreak is a milder strain that is rarely fatal. Both versions cause a fever and a rash that can be painful. Monkeypox viruses can be transmitted through close contact with an infected person or infected body fluids, although scientists are still working to figure out what is causing this wave of cases. The vast majority of cases in the current outbreak have occurred in men, and especially in men who have sex with men, the WHO says. It notes that there has also been a rise in cases in parts of Africa, where women and children, among others, are monkey pox patients.
The WHO statement could theoretically help countries strengthen their public health response. It came out with recommendations for how different countries should respond to the virus, whether they have already detected cases or not. Unlike COVID-19, monkeypox is a known amount. There are tests and vaccines for this virus, and while there are no specialized treatments, some antivirals can work on the disease.
But the statement itself has been a matter of debate for weeks, especially as the virus appears to have very different impacts on populations around the world. In Europe and the US, the virus is mild and countries are buying vaccines for distribution. In Africa, where the number of cases is less but more serious, no vaccines have been sent Associated Presss reports.
In June, a panel of experts made the controversial decision that monkeypox did not qualify as a global public health emergency. The WHO defines this type of emergency as “an extraordinary event, which through international spread poses a public health risk to other states and which may require a coordinated international response”. Today the panel met again and was divided on whether monkeypox actually met those criteria.
The WHO panelists in favor of today’s statement believed it met those standards. They also noted that they had a “moral duty to use all available resources and tools to respond to the event,” citing LGBTI+ leaders from around the world who are especially concerned that this disease is disproportionately affecting their communities. affects. They pointed out that “the community currently most affected outside of Africa is the same that was initially reported in the early stages of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.” During the early days of that pandemic, the disease was ignored and stigmatized for being associated with gay men.
Non-supporting panelists said the circumstances of the outbreak had remained unchanged since they last met in June, when they decided not to issue an emergency statement. They pointed to the fact that the disease has been mild in most of the world and could stabilize in some countries. They also said they were concerned about the stigma an emergency health certificate could create “particularly in countries where homosexuality is a crime”. Another concern was the still extremely limited supply of monkeypox vaccines worldwide. People who opposed the statement said they feared declaring an emergency could increase demand for the vaccine, even among people who are not at risk, putting pressure on vaccine supplies.
In the end, although the panel was split, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of WHO, decided it was worth declaring a state of emergency. “We have an outbreak that has spread rapidly around the world due to new modes of transmission that we lack understanding and that meet the criteria,” Tedros said in a statement. The New York Times.