monkeypox has been declared a worldwide public health emergency by the head of the United Nations' health agency.
Monkeypox has spread to more than 70 nations and is now a global health emergency, according to World Health Organization director Margaret Chan, who made the announcement Saturday. This may lead to additional investment in the treatment of the illness and aggravate the rush for limited vaccines.
In spite of the lack of agreement within the WHO's emergency committee, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus decided to release the announcement. Taking such a step by the head of the United Nations' health organization was unprecedented.
"We have an outbreak that has moved over the world swiftly through novel routes of transmission about which we understand too little and which fulfills the requirements under international health rules," Tedros said.
This "has not been a simple or uncomplicated procedure," he said. "I am aware that there are various viewpoints among the members" of this group.
The World Health Organization's highest level of warning does not always signify that a disease is highly contagious or deadly. Monkeypox was added to that category by WHO director-general Dr. Michael Ryan because he wanted the global community to take the current outbreak seriously.
It wasn't until May that officials discovered scores of cases of monkeypox outside of Africa, in Europe, North America, and elsewhere, despite its long-standing presence in those regions for decades.
If the monkeypox outbreak were to spread to other nations, the declaration of a worldwide emergency would signify the outbreak was a "extraordinary occurrence" that necessitated global attention. For public health crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak, the Zika virus in Latin America, and the ongoing campaign to eliminate polio, WHO has already declared emergencies.
The declaration of an emergency is primarily an appeal for increased global resources and attention to be brought to bear on an outbreak. In light of the United Nations' inability to persuade other governments to take action, previous statements received a mixed response.
After concluding last month that the worldwide epidemic of monkeypox did not yet constitute an international emergency, the WHO expert committee met this week to reassess the situation.
More than 16,000 monkeypox cases have been documented in 74 countries since May, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only in Africa, where a more virulent strain of the virus is spreading, have deaths from monkeypox been documented to yet, mostly in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
A small number of outbreaks of monkeypox in Africa are transmitted to humans by infected wild animals such as rats. People in Europe, North America, and elsewhere are being infected with monkeypox, even if they have no direct contact with animals or have recently returned from Africa.
According to Dr. Rosamund Lewis, WHO's top monkeypox expert, 99 percent of all monkeypox cases outside Africa were in men, and 98 percent were men who had intercourse with other male partners. At two raves in Belgium and Spain, experts believe that the monkeypox outbreaks in Europe and North America may have been transmitted via sex.
Even though Tedros has declared a public health emergency of international significance, the outbreak is mostly affecting males who engage in heterosexual sexual activity, particularly those who have several sexual partners. "In other words, we're dealing with an outbreak that's manageable if the appropriate approaches are taken by the appropriate individuals."
The director-decision general's was based on Ryan's explanation.:
There were "quite profound difficulties in this topic," Ryan said. "(Tedros) concluded that the committee didn't get to an agreement despite having a really open, very beneficial, and very deliberate debate," Ryan added. There are a lot of unknowns. The occurrence" has been declared a worldwide emergency in light of this ambiguity and his commitment.
Professor Michael Head of Southampton University's department of global health explained that the grounds for declaring monkeypox an emergency had been satisfied weeks before to Saturday's declaration.
In the past, some experts doubted whether such a declaration would help, arguing the disease isn't severe enough to warrant such a declaration and that rich countries battling monkeypox already have the funds to do so; most people recover without needing medical attention, although the lesions may be extremely painful.
Overreacting in the early stages of an issue is preferable to ignoring it until it's too late, Head said. And the World Bank and other funders might use WHO's emergency designation in order to assist limit the spread of monkeypox across Europe and Africa, where animals are likely to serve as reservoirs.
Some scientists in the United States have argued that monkeypox, like gonorrhea, herpes, and HIV, may be on the approach of becoming an established sexually transmitted illness in the country.
Professor Albert Ko of public health and epidemiology at Yale University remarked, "The basic conclusion is we've observed a change in the epidemiology of monkeypox where there is now broad, unanticipated transmission." This may be due to genetic alterations in the virus; nonetheless, a worldwide reaction is needed to bring it under control, he added.
In the early days of COVID-19, there were substantial gaps in monitoring, according to Ko, who advocated for testing to be promptly expanded up.
As he put it, "The incidents we're witnessing are only the top of the iceberg." 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.
Some specialists in the United States believe that monkeypox will become the newest sexually transmitted disease in the country, with officials predicting that 1.5 million men are at high risk of infection.
At Congo's Institute of National Biomedical Research, Placide Mbala, a virologist who heads the global health department, hopes any worldwide efforts to halt monkeypox would be equal. The United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and the United States have all ordered millions of vaccine doses, but none of them has been sent to Africa.
According to Mbala, "The answer needs to be global," he said, adding that any vaccinations that are supplied to Africa will be used to target individuals at the most risk, including hunters in rural regions.
There will still be cases of Ebola in Africa, even if Western countries become vaccinated against it, he added. There will be a risk to the rest of the globe until this issue is resolved in the United States.
SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES