The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the monkeypox outbreak a “global health emergency”.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference that despite the WHO committee’s inability to reach consensus, he still declared the emergency as the deciding vote.
He added that the risk was “moderate” overall, except in Europe where it is “high”.
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Dr Ghebreyesus said there have been more than 16,000 cases of monkeypox reported to WHO from 75 countries and five deaths.
The WHO statement is designed to trigger an international response to the outbreak, which could unlock funding and vaccine sharing.
Dr. Ghebreyesus also made recommendations on how to implement a response, including:
• Engage and protect affected communities;
• Intensify surveillance and public health measures;
• Strengthen clinical management and infection prevention and control in hospitals and clinics;
• Accelerate research on the use of vaccines, therapeutics and other tools.
The disease has had a foothold in parts of West and Central Africa for decades and was not known to trigger large outbreaks beyond the continent.
However, in May, authorities in the United States and Western Europe detected dozens of outbreaks.
Monkeypox joins COVID-19, Ebola and Zika on the list of previously declared global health emergencies.
Earlier this week, WHO monkeypox expert Dr Rosamund Lewis said 99% of all cases outside Africa were in men, with 98% of them in men who have sex with men. other men.
She also warned that “stigma and discrimination are not acceptable. Stigma will not help, it will drive people away from seeking diagnoses.”
Some experts believe the spread started at two raves in Belgium and Spain.
The NHS website currently lists a high temperature, headache, muscle aches, back pain, swollen glands, chills and exhaustion as symptoms, and is often characterized by pus-filled skin lesions .
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has purchased an additional 100,000 doses of a vaccine to help fight the spread of the virus, with eligible people being contacted by the NHS to get their shots.
“We cannot afford to wait for diseases to get worse before intervening”
A total of 2,137 cases have been confirmed in the UK, including 2,050 in England – the majority of them in London, according to the latest figures published on July 18.
In response to the WHO decision, Dr Josie Golding, head of epidemics and epidemiology at health charity Wellcome, said: “Our world is becoming increasingly vulnerable to infectious disease outbreaks. The declaration of another public health emergency of international concern should starkly remind world leaders of this modern reality and the weaknesses in our collective ability to prepare and respond. .
“As cases of monkeypox continue to rise and spread to more countries, we now face a dual challenge: an endemic disease in Africa that has been neglected for decades and a new epidemic affecting marginalized communities. Governments need to take this more seriously and work together internationally. to control this epidemic.
“Proven public health measures, including enhanced disease surveillance, contact tracing and equitable access to tests, treatments and vaccines for those most at risk, are crucial. But governments must also support more research to understand why we are seeing new patterns of transmission, assess the effectiveness of our current tools, and support the development of improved interventions.
“Without this rapid and concentrated action, monkeypox will continue to infect even more people unnecessarily and establish itself in more populations, including the risk of reverse spread to animals. We cannot afford to wait for the illnesses get worse before you intervene.”