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Friday, March 31, 2023

UN Health Agency Chief Declares Monkeypox a Global Emergency

The World Health Organization chief declared on Saturday that the spreading monkeypox outbreak in more than 70 countries is a “extraordinary” situation that qualifies as a global emergency. This declaration may encourage more funding for the treatment of the formerly uncommon disease and exacerbate the competition for limited vaccine supplies.

The WHO’s highest level of warning is a worldwide emergency, however this does not imply that a disease is highly contagious or deadly. Similar statements were made about the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak, the Zika virus in 2016 in Latin America, and the ongoing campaign to eradicate polio.

In spite of a lack of agreement among specialists on the emergency committee of the U.N. health agency, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared monkeypox a worldwide emergency, claiming that he served as “a tiebreaker.” It was the first time the head of a U.N. health organization had taken such a stand without expert input.

According to Tedros, “We have an outbreak that has swiftly expanded over the world through novel routes of transmission, about which we understand too little. I am aware that there are several points of view and that the process has not been simple or uncomplicated.

Dr. Michael Ryan, WHO’s director general for emergencies, said the decision to declare monkeypox a global emergency was made to ensure that the current outbreaks are taken seriously worldwide.

Monkeypox has existed in some areas of central and west Africa for decades, but until May, when officials discovered dozens of infections in Europe, North America, and other places, it was not known to cause significant outbreaks outside of the continent or to spread significantly among humans.

The WHO expert council met this week to review the situation after stating last month that the monkeypox epidemic did not yet qualify as a global emergency.

Since mid May, 74 nations have recorded more than 16,000 cases of monkeypox, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deaths from monkeypox have only been documented in Africa, where a more severe strain of the virus is primarily spreading in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In Africa, rats and other wild animals carrying the virus normally do not cross international boundaries to infect humans during isolated epidemics. However, monkeypox is spreading among humans who have no connections to animals and haven’t recently visited Africa in Europe, North America, and other places.

Dr. Rosamund Lewis, the leading specialist on monkeypox for the WHO, stated last week that males made up 99 percent of all instances of monkeypox outside of Africa, and that 98 percent of those cases were men who had sex with men. According to experts, sex at two raves in Belgium and Spain may have contributed to the monkeypox epidemics in Europe and North America.

Despite the fact that I am currently announcing a public health emergency of global significance, Tedros noted that this outbreak is mostly affecting guys who have sex with other men, particularly those who have several sexual partners. “That suggests that with the appropriate approaches, this outbreak can be prevented.”

After observing little evidence of widespread transmission outside of males who are homosexual, bisexual, or have intercourse with other men, Britain has revised its evaluation of monkeypox, stating that the infection does not spread quickly or result in serious illness.

The WHO’s emergency designation was “supported” by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which expressed the hope that it would spur global action to contain the epidemics. More than 2,800 cases of monkeypox have been documented in the US, and more than 370,000 vaccine doses have been supplied to states that have reported cases.

Some experts have questioned whether such a proclamation would be beneficial, claiming that the illness is not serious enough to merit the attention and that wealthy nations already have the resources to combat monkeypox. Despite the lesions sometimes hurting, the majority of patients recover without the need for medical assistance.

According to Southampton University senior research fellow in global health Michael Head, the World Health Organization’s emergency designation may enable funders like the World Bank to allocate resources to halt the epidemics in both the West and Africa.

Some scientists in the United States have hypothesized that monkeypox may soon establish itself as a widespread STD, much like gonorrhea, herpes, and HIV.

The epidemiology of monkeypox has changed, and there is now broad, unanticipated transmission, according to Dr. Albert Ko, a Yale University professor of public health and epidemiology. We definitely need a worldwide coordinated response to get it under control, but there are certain genetic alterations in the virus that show why that may be happening.

Ko demanded that testing be increased up right away since there are huge gaps in surveillance.

The examples that we are currently observing are only the very beginning, he claimed. It’s probably too late to rapidly put an end to the outbreaks in Europe and the United States, but it’s not too late to prevent monkeypox from wreaking havoc in developing nations that lack the means to combat it.

Tedros of the WHO urged everyone to “work together in solidarity” in order to distribute monkeypox medications, diagnostic tools, and vaccinations. The United Nations organization has previously stated that it is attempting to develop a vaccine-sharing system for the nations that are most afflicted, but provided little information as to how it may operate. Contrary to the several businesses that produced COVID-19 vaccines, Bavarian Nordic of Denmark is the sole manufacturer of the monkeypox vaccine.

The director of the global health division of the Institute of National Biomedical Research in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dr. Placide Mbala, expressed his hope that any international efforts to eradicate monkeypox would be equitable. Millions of doses of the monkeypox vaccine have been requested by nations such as the UK, Canada, Germany, and the US, but none have reached Africa.

Mbala stated that “the solution needs to be global” and that any vaccinations given to Africa would be used to target individuals who were most at danger, such as rural hunters.

There will still be instances in Africa, he warned, despite the fact that vaccination in the West could help contain the spread there. The risk to the rest of the globe will persist unless this issue is resolved.

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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