Monkeypox declared global health emergency by WHO after outbreak in over 70 countries

WHO said that monkeypox outbreak in several countries in an ‘extraordinary’ situation. A global emergency is WHO’s highest level of alert, but the designation does not necessarily mean a disease is particularly transmissible or lethal

Monkeypox declared global health emergency by WHO after outbreak in over 70 countries

India now has two confirmed cases of monkeypox in the state of Kerala. AFP

Geneva: The World Health Organization Saturday declared the monkeypox outbreak to be a global health emergency.

“I have decided that the global monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern,” World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Expressing concerns, the WHO chief said that expanding monkeypox outbreak in over 70 countries is an “extraordinary” situation that now qualifies as a global emergency.

Today’s declaration by the global health body could further enhance investment in finding treatment to the once-rare disease.

“We have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission about which we understand too little and which meets the criteria in the international health regulations,” Tedros said.

“I know this has not been an easy or straightforward process and that there are divergent views among the members” of the committee,” the WHO DG added.

A global emergency is WHO’s highest level of alert, but the designation does not necessarily mean a disease is particularly transmissible or lethal. WHO’s emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, said the director-general made the decision to put monkeypox in that category to endure the global community takes the current outbreaks seriously.

Notably, monkeypox has been established in parts of central and west Africa for decades, but it was not known to spark large outbreaks beyond the continent or to spread widely among people until May, when authorities detected dozens of epidemics in Europe, North America and elsewhere.

Declaring a global emergency means the monkeypox outbreak is an “extraordinary event” that could spill over into more countries and requires a coordinated global response. WHO previously declared emergencies for public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak, the Zika virus in Latin America in 2016 and the ongoing effort to eradicate polio.

The emergency declaration mostly serves as a plea to draw more global resources and attention to an outbreak. Past announcements had mixed impact, given that the U.N. health agency is largely powerless in getting countries to act.

Last month, WHO’s expert committee said the worldwide monkeypox outbreak did not yet amount to an international emergency, but the panel convened this week to re-evaluate the situation.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 16,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in 74 countries since about May. To date, monkeypox deaths have only been reported in Africa, where a more dangerous version of the virus is spreading, mainly in Nigeria and Congo.

Monkeypox virus may entrench as new STD

In the Us, the spread of monkeypox could represent the dawn of a new sexually transmitted disease, though some health officials say the virus that causes pimple-like bumps might yet be contained before it gets firmly established.

Experts don’t agree on the likely path of the disease, with some fearing that it is becoming so widespread that it is on the verge of becoming an entrenched STD — like gonorrhea, herpes and HIV.

But no one’s really sure, and some say testing and vaccines can still stop the outbreak from taking root.

Don’t Miss: Monkeypox: Mostly transmitted through sex, virus may entrench as new STD in the US

So far, more than 2,400 US cases have been reported as part of an international outbreak that emerged two months ago.

How does monkeypox virus spreads?

Monkeypox virus spreads mainly through skin-to-skin contact, but it can also be transmitted through linens used by someone with monkeypox. Although it’s been moving through the population like a sexually transmitted disease, officials have been watching for other types of spread that could expand the outbreak.

Must Read: Explained: How fast does monkeypox spread and should India worry?

Monkeypox symptoms

Symptoms of monkeypox virus include fever, body aches, chills, fatigue and the bumps on parts of the body. The illness has been relatively mild in many men, and no one has died in the US, but people can be contagious for weeks, and the lesions can be extremely painful.

Monkeypox cases in India

India now has three cases of monkeypox and all of them have been reported from Kerala. The state reported its third case of monkeypox on Friday (22 July). A 35-year-old man from Malappuram district who came to Kerala from UAE earlier this month, has tested positive for the disease. The state started monkeypox testing at NIV Alapuzha on 19 July.

Also Read: Monkeypox in India: Kerala reports third case, Karnataka steps up surveillance activities

India’s first case of the monkeypox virus was reported on 14 July after a UAE traveller returned to Kerala. He has been admitted to Thiruvananthapuram medical college. The country’s second monkeypox case was again reported monkeypox in Kerala’s Kannur district on 18 July. A 31-year-old man has contracted the infection and is undergoing treatment at a hospital.

With inputs from agencies

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