On Saturday, the World Health Organization’s director-general declared that monkeypox is a worldwide public health emergency. As a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, the viral illness is in the same category as polio and COVID-19.
Monkeypox outbreaks were discovered in Europe and the United Kingdom in May. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been 16,836 cases of monkeypox in 74 countries since then. There have been a few outbreaks of monkeypox in central and western Africa, but they were considerably smaller.
To paraphrase Albert Ko, “the incidents we are witnessing are merely the top of the iceberg.” At Yale, Ko is an epidemiology and public health professor. Even while we may have missed a chance to halt the spread of monkeypox in Europe and the United States, it is not too late to prevent its spread to nations that lack the means to combat it.
Humans are susceptible to two strains of monkeypox. One is more dangerous, with a mortality rate of 10%, and it has only been discovered so far in Africa. There appears to be a milder type of Ebola that is causing the international epidemic. Both variants result in a painful fever and rash. Close contact with an infected individual or exposure to contaminated body fluids are the most common ways that monkeypox viruses are spread, but scientists are still trying to figure out what’s causing this recent uptick in cases. According to the WHO, males have been the majority of those affected by the current outbreak, particularly those who have had intercourse with other men. Several African countries have seen a rise in monkeypox cases that include more women and children, according to the report.
It’s only a fraction of what’s out there, he said.
Nations might possibly benefit from the announcement by the World Health Organization. It included advice for how various countries should respond to the virus, regardless of whether or not they’ve previously been infected by the disease. Monkeypox, unlike COVID-19, is a known entity. Some antivirals may be able to treat the condition, but there are no specific therapies for this virus at this time.
In spite of this, the proclamation has been a source of controversy for several weeks, in part because the virus appears to be affecting people in very diverse ways all around the world. As a result of the virus’s mildness in Europe and the United States, nations are stockpiling vaccines for public distribution. The AP adds that no vaccinations have been shipped to Africa, where the number of infections is lower but the severity is greater.
In June, a group of specialists made the contentious judgement that monkeypox was not a worldwide public health emergency and so did not require immediate attention. “An unusual incident, which poses a public health danger to other States through international transmission, and which possibly necessitates a coordinated worldwide response,” is how the WHO describes this type of emergency. The panel convened again today and was divided on whether or not monkeypox matched the criterion.
Those WHO panel members who supported today’s proclamation agreed that it met those conditions. In addition, they said they had a “moral obligation” to respond to the event, citing LGBTI+ leaders from around the world who are particularly worried that this illness is disproportionately harming their populations. As they pointed out, the “group presently most afflicted outside of Africa is the same first believed to be affected in the early phases of HIV/AIDS epidemic” Since it had been linked to homosexuality in the early days of the epidemic, the illness went unnoticed and stigmatised.
As a result of their decision not to declare an emergency in June, panel members concluded that the outbreak’s circumstances had not changed since then. In many nations, they said, the sickness has been moderate, and that it may be stabilising in others. “Especially in countries where homosexuality is criminalised,” they said they were concerned about the stigma that an emergency health proclamation may generate. Another issue was the restricted quantity of monkeypox vaccinations in the world at the time. Opponents said that declaring an emergency would raise demand for the vaccination, even among those who are not at danger, which would put a pressure on the vaccine supply.’
The director general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, opted to declare an emergency even though the panel was split. New means of transmission have expanded this outbreak very quickly and we know too little about it,” Tedros said, according to The New York Times.