As infections spread, WHO says Monkeypox not yet global health emergency

As infections spread, WHO says Monkeypox not yet global health emergency

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said though Monkeypox outbreak is spreading globally it does not currently constitute a global health emergency.

It, however, agreed that it is “clearly an evolving threat.”

This is the outcome of an emergency committee meeting conveyed by the global health body as contained in a statement published on the WHO website on Saturday.

It added that the response to the outbreak requires collaborative international efforts.

In his comment on the report, the WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said: “The emergency committee shared serious concerns about the scale and speed of the current outbreak, noted many unknown gaps in current data and prepared a consensus report that reflects differing views amongst the committee.

“They advised me that at this moment the event does not constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), which is the highest level of alert WHO can issue but recognised that the convening of the committee itself reflects the increasing concern about the international spread of monkeypox.”

Mr Ghebreyesus said the outbreak was “clearly an evolving health threat” that needed immediate action to stop its further spread, using surveillance, contact-tracing, isolation and care of patients, and ensuring vaccines and treatments are available.

“What makes the current outbreak especially concerning is the rapid, continuing spread into new countries and regions and the risk of further, sustained transmission into vulnerable populations including people that are immunocompromised, pregnant women and children,” he added.

Committee conclusion, advice

According to the report of the meeting with the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) Emergency Committee, the current multi-country outbreak is unusual due to its circulation in non-endemic countries, and the fact that the majority of cases were confirmed in gay men who were not previously immunised against smallpox.

Some members of the committee suggested that “given the low level of population immunity against pox virus infection, there is a risk of further, sustained transmission into the wider population that should not be overlooked.”

The committee also stressed that Monkeypox virus activity has been neglected and not well controlled for years in countries within the WHO African region.

“While a few Members expressed differing views, the committee resolved by consensus to advise the WHO Director-General that at this stage the outbreak should be determined to not constitute a PHEIC.

“The Committee advised that the event should be closely monitored and reviewed after a few weeks, once more information about the current unknowns becomes available, to determine if significant changes have occurred that may warrant a reconsideration of their advice,” the report reads in parts.

In his response, Mr Ghebreyesus urged all member states to take the recommendations of the committee for stepped-up surveillance, improved diagnostics, community engagement, vaccination and public health measures.

WHO Monkeypox situation report

At the committee meeting, WHO presented the global epidemiological situation on Monkeypox, highlighting that since the beginning of May 2022, 3,040 cases have been reported from 47 countries.

It noted that while the transmission is occurring in many countries that have not previously reported cases of Monkeypox, the highest numbers of cases are currently reported from countries in the WHO European Region.

The report further explained that “the initial cases of Monkeypox, detected in several countries in different WHO Regions, had no epidemiological links to areas that have historically reported Monkeypox, suggesting that undetected transmission might have been ongoing for some time in those countries.

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“The majority of confirmed cases of monkeypox are male and most of these cases occur among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men in urban areas and are clustered social and sexual networks.”

It added that representatives of Canada, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom updated the Committee on the epidemiological situation in their countries and the current response efforts.

About Monkeypox

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research, hence the name ‘Monkeypox.’

The first human case of Monkeypox was recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during a period of intensified effort to eliminate smallpox.

Since then, Monkeypox has been reported in people in several other central and western African countries: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, and Sierra Leone.

The initial symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and exhaustion. A rash can develop, often beginning on the face, and then spreading to other parts of the body. The rash changes and goes through different stages before finally forming a scab, which later falls off.


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