Monkeypox experts were discussing on Thursday whether the World Health Organization should classify the outbreak as a global health emergency – the highest alarm it could sound.
A second meeting of the WHO’s emergency committee on the virus was being held to review the worsening situation, with nearly 15,400 cases reported in 71 countries, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
An upsurge in monkeypox infections has been reported since early May outside countries in West and Central Africa where the disease has long been endemic.
On June 23, the WHO convened an emergency committee of experts to decide whether monkeypox constitutes a so-called public health emergency of international concern (USPPI) – the agency’s highest alert level. United Nations health.
But a majority informed WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus that the situation, at that time, had not reached the threshold.
The second meeting was called and the number of cases increased again.
“I need your advice to assess the immediate and mid-term implications for public health,” Tedros said at the start of the meeting.
If the committee notifies Tedros that the outbreak constitutes a USPPI, it will offer interim recommendations on how to better prevent and reduce the spread of the disease and manage the global public health response.
But there is no timetable for when the result will be made public.
Ninety-eight percent of reported cases “involve men who have sex with men (MSM) – and primarily those with multiple recent anonymous or new partners,” said Rosamund Lewis, technical lead of the WHO for monkeypox, at a press conference on Wednesday. .
They are generally young and live mainly in urban areas, according to the WHO.
Tedros said Thursday that this poses a challenge, as in some countries “affected communities face life-threatening discrimination.”
“There is a real concern that men who have sex with men may be stigmatized or blamed for the epidemic, which makes the epidemic much more difficult to follow and stop,” he said during Of the reunion.
Tedros said the committee’s first meeting helped define the dynamics of the outbreak, but he remained concerned about the number of cases.
Despite an apparent downward trend in some countries, six countries reported their first cases last week.
“As the epidemic grows, it is important to assess the effectiveness of public health interventions in different settings, to better understand what works and what doesn’t,” he said.
Tedros also said information from endemic countries in Africa was “very scarce”, making it difficult to characterize the situation in the region and design interventions.
A smallpox-like viral infection first detected in humans in 1970, monkeypox is less dangerous and contagious than smallpox, which was eradicated in 1980.
“Scary and Exhausting”
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control said as of Monday, 7,896 confirmed cases had been reported across 27 countries in the European Economic Area.
The most affected were Spain (2,835), Germany (1,924), France (912), the Netherlands (656) and Portugal (515).
“Particular sexual practices are very likely to have facilitated and may further facilitate the transmission of monkeypox among MSM groups,” he said.
Denmark’s Bavarian Nordic is the only lab making a licensed monkeypox vaccine and bites are currently rare.
Loyce Pace, assistant secretary for global affairs at the US Department of Health and Human Services, said it was “very difficult” for the world to deal with monkeypox on top of Covid-19 and other health crises. .
“I know it can be scary…and, frankly, exhausting,” she told reporters at the US mission in Geneva.
However, “we know a lot more about this disease, we have been able to stop outbreaks before, and we have, most importantly, medical countermeasures and other tools available.”
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)