The World Health Organization on Saturday said the rapid spread of monkeypox through dozens of countries was not a global health emergency at the moment.
However, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described smallpox in monkeys as a growing health threat, and called on governments worldwide to increase surveillance, contact tracing. education, testing and ensuring that people at high risk have access to vaccines and antiviral treatments.
WHO has convened its emergency committee to determine the level of threat monkeypox currently poses to the international community. According to WHO figures, at least 3,000 cases of smallpox in monkeys across more than 50 countries have been identified since the beginning of May.
The committee considered whether to activate the highest level of WHO alert in response to the outbreak, known as a public health emergency of international concern. Covid-19 and polio are the only other viral outbreaks considered by WHO to be an international public health emergency.
Although the WHO did not activate its highest alert level, Tedros said the outbreak raises serious concern because it is spreading rapidly in countries where the virus is not normally found. Historically, monkeypox has spread at low rates in remote areas of West and Central Africa. In the current outbreak, 84% of cases reported worldwide are in Europe, which is highly unusual.
“What makes the current outbreak particularly worrisome is its rapid, continued spread to new countries and regions, and the potential for long-term transmission,” Tedros said in a press release on Saturday. further into vulnerable populations including immunocompromised persons, pregnant women and children”.
The WHO director said research on the circulation of monkeypox in Africa had been overlooked, putting the health of people there and around the world at risk.
Smallpox in monkeys is mainly spread through close physical contact with infected people or contaminated materials such as shared clothing or bed sheets. The virus can be spread through respiratory droplets if an infected person has lesions in the throat or mouth. However, this requires prolonged face-to-face contact, and monkeypox is not thought to be spread by aerosol particles.
Respiratory droplets fall to the ground quickly, while aerosol particles remain in the air for a longer period. Covid-19 spreads through aerosol particles, which is one of the reasons it is so contagious.
Monkeypox belongs to the same family of viruses as smallpox, but it has milder symptoms. Most people recover in two to four weeks without specific medical treatment.
According to the WHO, the monkey disease outbreak mainly affects gay and bisexual men who report having sex with a new or multiple partners. Of the 468 monkeypox patients disclosing demographic information, 99% were male. Most of them identified as men who had sex with men and had an average age of 37, according to the WHO.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States has reported 142 confirmed or suspected cases of smallpox in 23 states and Washington DC. Health officials in the US sought to raise awareness ahead of Pride Month about how the virus spreads and its symptoms so people can protect themselves from infection. Although men who have sex with men are at a higher risk of contracting the disease right now, anyone can contract monkeypox from close physical contact regardless of their sexual orientation. .
Monkeypox often begins with flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, body aches, chills, exhaustion, and swollen lymph nodes. A rash that looks like pimples or blisters then appears on the body. People are most contagious when they have a rash.
According to the CDC, some patients in the current outbreak only had a rash on the genitals or anus before any symptoms appeared, suggesting it was spread through sexual contact in those cases. In other cases, the patient developed a rash without any rash symptoms.
The US has stockpiled two different vaccines and an antiviral treatment against smallpox and smallpox in monkeys. Jynneos is a two-dose vaccine approved for people 18 years of age and older. The CDC generally recommends Jynneos over another option, ACAM2000, an older generation smallpox vaccine. Jynneos is considered safer than ACAM2000, which can have serious side effects.
The WHO says mass vaccination is not recommended at this time to prevent smallpox in monkeys. The US is providing vaccines to people at high risk of exposure to the virus.
The international health body has only applied the emergency designation six times since the rules were implemented in the mid-2000s. The last time the WHO declared a global health emergency, before Covid, was in 2019 because of an Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo that killed more than 2,000 people. The agency also declared a global emergency for the Zika virus in 2016, the 2009 H1N1 swine flu outbreak, and the 2014 polio and Ebola outbreaks.