On Saturday, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the unprecedented outbreak of monkeypox that has spread around the world a public health emergency. This decision will enable the WHO to take additional measures in an effort to try to curb the spread of the virus.
In an unusual move, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the declaration even though a committee of experts he had convened to study the issue did not advise him to do so because they were unable to reach a consensus on how to proceed. This was an unusual move because the committee was supposed to advise him on how to proceed with the issue. After deliberating for just one month, the same committee decided against declaring a public health emergency of international concern, abbreviated as PHEIC for short.
Even though there is no formal voting process within the committee, a survey of the members revealed that nine of them believed that a PHEIC should not be declared, while six of them supported a declaration. When the committee got together in June, the vote was 11 against and only three in favour.
Tedros stated in the news conference that was called to announce the decision that the score of nine and six is extremely close. “Since the purpose of the committee is to make recommendations, it fell to me to serve as the arbitrator in the event of a deadlock.”
We are confident that this will inspire people all over the world to work together. It requires coordination, and in addition to coordination, it requires solidarity,” he said.
In a report on the meeting that was released on Saturday, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that the members of the emergency committee who did not believe that a PHEIC should be declared were concerned, among other things, that it might provoke mistreatment and stigmatisation of men who have sex with other men, which is the community in which the vast majority of cases in this outbreak are occurring. The international health organisation was adamant in its insistence that this must not take place.
According to Mike Ryan, who is in charge of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, “it is exceptionally important that the existence of a public health emergency of international concern and the intensification of surveillance and control efforts are not used as a means of coercive surveillance or for imposition of measures that would impede the dignity and human rights of the people affected.” “It is of the utmost importance that we strike the appropriate balance here.”
Only about a dozen countries in Central and Western Africa are home to natural populations of monkeypox. However, in May, officials in London’s public health department reported six cases of the disease in people who had not travelled to an endemic country. Four of the six individuals were found in men who have sexual relations with other men.
In the weeks that followed, the number of reported cases across the globe skyrocketed, reaching a new high of more than 16,000 in over 75 countries across the globe, including Europe, North and South America, the Middle East, new regions of Africa, South Asia, and Australia. The number of reported cases in the United States is close to 2,900.
Tedros is granted certain powers by the PHEIC, which is pronounced similarly to “fake.” These powers include the ability to make recommendations regarding how countries should react. Additionally, it has the potential to rally global coordination in order to produce a more unified response. As part of this effort, it may be necessary to take measures to ensure a more equitable distribution of treatments and vaccines, both of which are in extremely short supply.
On Saturday, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a comprehensive list of recommendations, which were categorised into the following four categories: recommendations for countries that have not yet detected a case of monkeypox; recommendations for countries with ongoing human-to-human transmission; recommendations for countries where the virus is endemic in nature; and recommendations for countries that have the capacity to produce monkeypox vaccine and therapeutics. For instance, nations that have not reported any cases have been urged to step up their surveillance efforts and make sure they are ready to treat infections should they arise. Countries that have the capability to produce medicines and vaccines have been urged to increase their output and to distribute it more evenly.
To this point, the outbreak has been concentrated largely among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with other men. Many of the cases have occurred in men who have had multiple recent sex partners, which the World Health Organization (WHO) believes increases the likelihood that the outbreak can be brought under control.
Tedros stated that “this is an outbreak that can be stopped” if the appropriate strategies are implemented by the appropriate groups.
However, officials in charge of public health have emphasised that the outbreak could spread to more vulnerable populations, such as children, pregnant women, and people whose immune systems are compromised. In addition, on Thursday, researchers from the Netherlands reported a case of the disease in a child younger than 10 years old who had no obvious connection to any other infected individuals. During this time, two children in the United States have been found to be infected, most likely due to transmission within households.
On a broader scale, a number of knowledgeable individuals have voiced their concern that it may be too late to attempt to contain the outbreak, and that monkeypox may instead become endemic in countries all over the world.
In the United States, sexual health clinics have been responsible for the diagnosis of a significant portion of the cases. The National Coalition of STD Directors issued a call to action to the Biden administration on Saturday, urging them to follow the World Health Organization’s (WHO) example and declare monkeypox a national public health emergency. In addition, the organisation requested that the government provide an emergency funding contribution of one hundred million dollars.
“While the administration has taken steps to address the monkeypox outbreak, including accelerating the distribution of vaccines and allocating critical funding for monkeypox research, it is quite simply not enough,” the executive director of the organisation said in a statement. “While the administration has taken steps to address the monkeypox outbreak, including accelerating the distribution of vaccines and allocating critical funding for monkeypox research,” he said.
“Cities and states across the country have been left to respond to this outbreak on their own,” and as a result, “they have been forced to make difficult decisions about how and when to distribute vaccines, provide therapeutics that are needed to recover, and educate the public.”
During a media briefing on Friday regarding the United States’ response to the monkeypox outbreak, Ashish Jha, the White House Covid-19 coordinator, stated that the Department of Health and Human Services is currently debating whether or not declaring a state of emergency would be beneficial to the response.
Jha said, “I think with public health emergencies it’s always important to ask very specific questions about what exactly would that allow us to be able to do differently than we’re doing now, and would that make it easier to be able to respond to this outbreak.” “I think with public health emergencies it’s always important to ask very specific questions about what exactly would that allow us to be able to do differently than we’re doing now,” Jha said At this point, the conversation at HHS is ongoing but extremely lively.
Infections with monkeypox cause painful lesions and rashes, including vesicles that form on the palms of the affected person’s hands. In the past, cases have typically been characterised by widespread rashes; however, the majority of cases in this outbreak have involved individuals who have only a few genital or anal lesions.
The monkeypox virus can be passed from person to person through close contact, most commonly through direct contact with lesions, as well as through respiratory droplets, contaminated clothing or linens, and other objects. Despite the increase in the number of reported cases, there have been no fatalities attributed to the virus in either Europe or the United States. Five deaths from monkeypox have been reported so far in 2022, with two of those deaths occurring in Nigeria and the other two occurring in the Central African Republic.
According to Josie Golding, who is in charge of epidemics and epidemiology at the British Wellcome Trust, this outbreak ought to serve as a wake-up call for world leaders to strengthen the capacity of the world to deal with outbreaks of infectious diseases.
“As the number of reported cases of monkeypox continues to climb and the disease spreads to additional nations, we are now faced with a dual challenge: an endemic disease in Africa that has been ignored for decades, and a new outbreak that is affecting communities that are already marginalised. Golding said in a statement that governments need to take this matter more seriously and collaborate with one another internationally in order to bring this outbreak under control. We simply do not have the resources to wait for the severity of diseases to worsen before taking action.