The World Health Organization declares a global health emergency due to the outbreak of monkeypox

  • The declaration is the highest level of alert for the World Health Organization
  • Tedros breaks deadlock on advisory committee
  • The decision was hailed as a way to stop the spread of the disease

July 23 (Reuters) – The rapidly spreading outbreak of monkeypox is a global health emergency, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Saturday, the highest level of preparedness for the World Health Organization.

The WHO poster – “A Public Health Emergency of International Importance (PHEIC)” – is designed to launch a coordinated international response and could unlock funding for collaboration in sharing vaccines and treatments.

He told reporters that members of the panel of experts that met on Thursday to discuss the potential recommendation were divided over the decision, with nine members opposing it and six in favor of the declaration, prompting Tedros himself to break the deadlock.

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“Although I declare a public health emergency of international concern, this is currently an outbreak that is concentrated among men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners,” Tedros told a Geneva briefing. Read more

“Stigma and discrimination can be as dangerous as any virus,” he added.

He said the risk of monkeypox – which spreads by close contact and tends to cause flu-like symptoms and pus-filled skin lesions – was moderate globally, with the exception of Europe, where the World Health Organization deemed the risk high. Read more

Previously, Tedros had usually supported the expert panel’s recommendations, but the two sources told Reuters earlier on Saturday that he may have decided to support the highest alert level due to concerns about escalating case rates and a lack of supplies of vaccines and treatments.

So far this year, there have been more than 16,000 cases of monkeypox in more than 75 countries, and five deaths in Africa.

The viral disease has spread mainly among men who have sex with men recently, outside Africa where the disease is endemic.

Health experts have welcomed the World Health Organization’s decision to issue the PHEIC declaration, which has so far applied only to the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing efforts to eradicate polio.

“The right conclusion is clear — not declaring a state of emergency at this point would be a historic missed opportunity,” said Lawrence Justin, a professor at Georgetown Law University in Washington, D.C., calling the decision politically courageous.

Josie Golding, head of epidemiology and epidemiology at the Wellcome Trust, said the decision should help contain the spread of the viral disease.

“We cannot afford to wait for the diseases to get worse before we intervene,” she said.

June meeting

The World Health Organization and national governments are facing intense pressure from scientists and public health experts to take more action on monkeypox.

Cases of the viral illness have ballooned since the committee first met at the end of June, when there were only about 3,000 cases.

At the time, the expert group agreed to reconsider their position on declaring an emergency if the outbreak escalated.

One of the main issues driving the reassessment was whether the cases would spread to other groups, particularly children or others who were susceptible to the virus in previous outbreaks in endemic countries.

On Friday, the United States identified its first two cases of monkeypox in children. Read more

World Health Organization officials said Saturday that they are exploring the possibility of the virus spreading through new transmission routes.

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(covering) by Jennifer Rigby and Natalie Grover in London and John Revell in Zurich – Editing by Helen Popper

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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