Sunday, October 2, 2022

WHO says monkeypox is not a global health emergency

WHO says monkeypox is not a global health emergency

The head of the World Health Organization said on Saturday that the monkeypox outbreak is related to a serious evolving threat, but it is not currently a global health emergency.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus convened a committee of experts on Thursday to advise him on whether the UN health agency should sound the strongest alarm over the outbreak.

An increase in monkeypox cases has been detected since early May outside West and Central African countries, where the disease has long been endemic. Most of the new cases have been reported in Western Europe.

So far this year, more than 3,200 confirmed cases and one death have been reported to the WHO from more than 50 countries.

“The Emergency Committee shared serious concerns about the scale and speed of the current outbreak,” Tedros said, noting many unknowns about the spread and gaps in the data.

“He advised me that at this time this incident does not constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), which is the highest level of alert that the WHO can issue but it is believed that the organizing committee itself is under international consideration. reflects growing concern about the spread of monkeypox.”

Tedros said the outbreak was “clearly an evolving health threat” that required immediate action to prevent further spread, using surveillance, contact-tracing, isolation and care of patients, and that Ensuring that vaccines and treatments are available to at-risk populations.

Need for ‘rapid response’

According to the WHO meeting report, “the majority of cases have been seen in men who have sex with younger men,” mainly in urban areas, appearing in “clustered social and sexual networks”.

While some members expressed differing views, the committee unanimously resolved to advise Tedros that at this stage, the outbreak was not PHEIC.

“However, the Committee unanimously acknowledged the emergency nature of the incident and the need for intensive response efforts to control further spread of the outbreak.”

They are set to regroup in the coming days and weeks, depending on how the outbreak develops.

The committee recommended that countries improve diagnosis and risk communication.

It noted that many aspects of the outbreak were unusual, while some members suggested that there was a risk of continued transmission due to the low level of population immunity against smallpox virus infection.

knowledge gap

The committee to look into the matter is made up of 16 scientists and public health experts and is headed by Jean-Marie Ocho-Belle, former director of the WHO’s Vaccines and Immunization Department.

Thursday’s five-hour private meeting took place in-person at the WHO’s Geneva headquarters and via video conference.

The Committee discussed current observations of a plateau or possible decline in the number of cases in some countries; Difficulties in contact tracing due to anonymous contacts, and “potential links to international gatherings and LGBTQ+ pride events are conducive to increased opportunities for exposure through intimate sexual encounters.”

They were also concerned that the potential stigma of the affected groups could hinder response efforts.

He said there are knowledge gaps on transmission mode, infectious duration as well as access to vaccines and antivirals and their efficacy.

blister rash

Common early symptoms of monkeypox include high fever, swollen lymph nodes, and a blistering chickenpox-like rash.

Cases in the initial outbreak had no epidemiological relationship to areas that have historically reported monkeypox, suggesting that there may have been undetected transmission for some time.

So far some people have been admitted to the hospital, while 10 cases have been reported among health workers.

WHO’s current plan to contain the spread focuses on raising awareness among affected population groups and encouraging safe behavior and protective measures.

There have been six PHEIC announcements since 2009, the last in 2020 for COVID-19 – although the sluggish global response to the alarm bells is still at WHO headquarters.

A PHEIC was announced after the 30 January meeting of the Third Emergency Committee. But only after March 11, when Tedros described the rapidly deteriorating situation as a pandemic, did many countries wake up to the danger.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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