On Saturday, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the unprecedented global monkeypox epidemic a public health emergency, allowing it to take additional measures to attempt to contain the virus.
An unusual action by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was to make the proclamation even though the committee of experts that Tedros had appointed to explore the subject had not recommended it since they had not reached an agreement. An emergency of international concern (PHEIC) was rejected just one month previously by the same committee.
The WHO declares monkeypox a public health emergency
An informal poll of the committee’s nine members found that they were against to declaring a PHEIC, while the committee’s other six members were in favour of it. When the group convened in June, there were 11 people opposed and three people in favour of the proposal.
In a press conference held to make the announcement, Tedros noted, “Nine and six is very, very near.” Tedros said. Due to the committee’s position in advising, I was forced into the role of the tie-breaker.”
It’s our belief that this will inspire the rest of the globe to take action. According to him, “coordination is not enough; it also necessitates solidarity.”
An emergency committee member who didn’t want to declare a PHEIC was afraid that it could lead to maltreatment and stigmatisation of males who have sex with men—the population where the vast majority of the infections in this outbreak are occurring—in the wake of the declaration. As a result, the World Health Organization was adamant that this would not happen.
For Mike Ryan, who heads the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, it’s “extremely important that the existence of a public health emergency of international concern and the intensification of surveillance and control efforts don’t use coercive surveillance or imposition of measures that would hinder the dignity and human rights of those affected.” Mike Ryan. “It’s critical that we strike the correct balance here.”
Only a handful of countries in Central and Western Africa are known to have an endemic form of monkeypox. Although, in May, London’s public health officials reported six instances in persons who had not gone to endemic nations. All but one of the six were found in guys who have had sex with other men.
Since then, the number of confirmed cases has risen to almost 16,000 across 75 countries in Europe, North and South America, the Middle East, new regions of Africa, South Asia, and Australia. This is a record number of cases. Nearly 2,900 instances have been reported in the United States.
As a result of the PHEIC, Tedros has the authority to make recommendations about how countries should respond to crises. It could also serve as a rallying point for international cooperation in order to provide a better coordinated response. An important part of that effort may be to ensure that the distribution of vaccines and treatments is more equal.
On Saturday, the WHO released a long list of recommendations divided into four categories: recommendations for countries that have not yet detected a case of monkeypox; recommendations for countries where human-to-human transmission is still occurring; recommendations for countries where the virus is naturally endemic; and recommendations for countries with the capacity to produce monkeypox vaccine and therapeutics.. It was recommended, for example, that countries with no known cases beef up their surveillance and get ready to cope with outbreaks when they do. A call was made for countries with the ability to produce and distribute medications and vaccinations to do so more frequently.
The WHO believes that the outbreak may be brought under control because it has been focused primarily among gay, bisexual, and other males who have had sex with men, with many happening in men who have had several recent sex partners.
As Tedros said, “There is a way to stop this pandemic with the appropriate methods in the right groups.”
This outbreak is a concern for pregnant women, persons with impaired immune systems and youngsters. A case in a 10-year-old child with no apparent connection to any other affected persons was revealed by Dutch researchers on Thursday. Meanwhile, the virus has spread to two children in the United States, most likely through contact with infected family members.
Experts fear that it may be too late to stop the spread of monkeypox, which might become an endemic disease in every country.
Many of the cases have been diagnosed in sexual health clinics in the United States. Biden administration requested to declare monkeypox national public health emergency by National Coalition of STD Directors on Saturday. In addition, the group urged the federal government to provide an additional $100 million in urgent support.
Monkeypox vaccines are being distributed more quickly, but this is not enough, according to the executive director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), David C. Harvey, in a statement.
Many cities and states have been left to deal with this outbreak on their own, making difficult decisions about how and when to provide vaccines, give therapeutic treatments needed to recover, and inform the public. ”
Ashish Jha, the White House Covid-19 coordinator, said during a media briefing on the U.S. monkeypox response on Friday that the Department of Health and Human Services is discussing whether declaring an emergency will help in the response.
It’s vital to ask “really explicit questions about what exactly would that allow us to do differently than we’re now doing, and would that make it easier to respond to this outbreak,” Jha added. A conversation is going on but it’s quite lively, according to an HHS official.
Infections with monkeypox cause painful sores and rashes, such as vesicles on the palms. People with a few vaginal or anal lesions are more likely to be affected than those with more widespread rashes, as has been the case in previous outbreaks.
Primarily through direct exposure to lesions, infected clothing or linens, or respiratory droplets, the monkeypox virus is transmitted to new hosts. The virus has not yet claimed the lives of anyone in the United States or Europe, despite rising case counts. Five deaths have been reported in 2022 in the Central African Republic and Nigeria, two nations where monkeypox is endemic.
Britain’s Wellcome Trust head of epidemics and epidemiology Josie Golding has urged international leaders to strengthen the global capacity to respond to infectious disease outbreaks.
This endemic disease in Africa has been neglected for decades, but now there is an unique outbreak affecting vulnerable groups as well as an ever-increasing number of cases. Authorities must take this more seriously and act together on a global scale to contain it,” Golding said in a statement. “We can’t afford to wait for sickness to get out of hand before we do something about it,” he says.