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Monkeypox declared global health emergency

Published on 25/07/22 at 09:18am

For the second time in two years, WHO declared a global health emergency, this time for monkeypox. The declaration is the strongest call to action the agency can make.

Monkeypox has spread in just a few weeks to dozens of countries, and infected tens of thousands.

It is the seventh time such a declaration has been made since 2009, the most recent being for COVID-19. The declaration follows a meeting of a committee of experts on Thursday.

WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus shared: “WHO's assessment is that the risk of monkeypox is moderate globally and in all regions, except in the European region, where we assess the risk as high.”

More than 16,000 cases have now been reported from 75 countries, and in the UK, there have been over  2,000 cases confirmed so far.

“In short, 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,” Dr Tedros continued. “For all of these reasons I have decided that the global monkeypox outbreak represents a global health emergency of international concern.”

The move apparently marks the first time that the director general had sidestepped his advisers to declare an emergency.

Dr Boghuma Titanji, an infectious diseases physician at Emory University in Atlanta commented that the move was overdue, and with the delay, “one can argue that the response globally has continued to suffer from a lack of coordination with individual countries working at very different paces to address the problem.”

“There is almost capitulation that we cannot stop the monkeypox virus from establishing itself in a more permanent way,” she added.

“We’ve now unfortunately really missed the boat on being able to put a lid on the outbreak earlier,” Dr James Lawler, co-director of the University of Nebraska’s Global Centre for Health Security, said. “Now it’s going to be a real struggle to be able to contain and control spread.”

Lawler estimated that it may take a year or more to control the outbreak, by which point, the virus is likely to have infected hundreds of thousands of people. Additionally, monkeypox may now permanently entrench itself in some countries.

Ana Ovey

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