WHO to Assess if Monkeypox Outbreak Is a Public Health Emergency
More than 7,200 cases of monkeypox have now been reported across nearly sixty countries.
Amid a global surge of new monkeypox virus cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) will reconvene a meeting of an emergency committee and decide whether the current outbreak should be declared a public health emergency of international concern.
According to CNN, in late June, the WHO’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee determined that the outbreak did not meet the criteria for such a declaration. The WHO defines a public health emergency of international concern, or PHEIC, as “an extraordinary event” that constitutes a “public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease” and may “potentially require a coordinated international response.”
A PHEIC is the highest level of alert the WHO can issue.
More than 7,200 cases of monkeypox have now been reported across nearly sixty countries. There have been at least 600 confirmed cases in more than thirty U.S. states and Washington D.C., according to data compiled by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, confirmed on Wednesday that he wants the committee to take another look at the latest data surrounding the epidemiology and evolution of the outbreak.
“On monkeypox, I continue to be concerned by the scale and spread of the virus,” he said.
“Testing remains a challenge, and it's highly probable that there are a significant number of cases not being picked up. Europe is the current epicenter of the outbreak, recording more than 80 percent of cases globally,” Ghebreyesus continued.
This particular monkeypox outbreak is unusual due to the fact that it is occurring in North American and European countries where the virus is not endemic. Monkeypox is generally found in central and west African rainforests where animals that carry the virus live.
According to the WHO, monkeypox—part of the same virus family as smallpox but with milder symptoms—is an illness that begins with flu-like symptoms and the swelling of lymph nodes, eventually progressing to rashes on the face, hands, feet, eyes, mouth, or genitals that turn into raised bumps and blisters. The virus can be transmissible for up to four weeks and is most easily spread via open contact with the sores of an infected individual.
The White House announced last week that its strategy for distributing monkeypox vaccines would focus on areas with the highest case rates and overall risk. According to data released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, roughly 42,000 courses of the monkeypox vaccine have already been distributed.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Finance and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.