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Monkeypox Global Emergency Declared by WHO, Raising Highest Alert

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The outbreak of monkeypox, which has afflicted nearly 16,000 people in 72 countries, was classified as a global health emergency on Saturday by the World Health Organization, the highest alert it can issue.

In a news conference, WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated, “I have determined that the global #monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international significance.”

He said that a panel of specialists had met on Thursday but were unable to come to a decision, thus it was up to him to determine whether to raise the level of alert.

The WHO has determined that the risk of monkeypox is moderate worldwide and in all regions, with the exception of the European region, where we have determined that the risk is high.

According to a count released on July 20 by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), monkeypox has afflicted over 15,800 persons in 72 countries.

Since early May, there has been an increase in monkeypox cases outside of the West and Central African nations where the illness has long been endemic.

On June 23, the WHO assembled an emergency committee (EC) of experts to determine if monkeypox qualifies as a PHEIC, the highest degree of alert recognized by the UN health organization.

But the majority told Tedros that the issue had not yet reached the necessary level.

With the number of cases increasing, a second meeting was convened on Thursday, and Tedros expressed concern.

Tedros addressed the lengthy meeting, saying, “I need your opinion in appraising the immediate and mid-term public health ramifications.”

Late on Friday, a US health specialist issued a dire warning.

“Since the last #monkeypox EC just weeks ago, we’ve seen an exponential rise in cases. It’s inevitable that cases will dramatically rise in the coming weeks & months. That’s why @DrTedros must sound the global alarm,” Lawrence Gostin, the director of the WHO Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law, said on Twitter.

“A failure to act will have grave consequences for global health.”

Caution: avoid discrimination

Monkeypox is a contagious viral infection similar to smallpox that was discovered in humans for the first time in 1970. Smallpox was eradicated from the world in 1980.

The largest study to date, involving 528 individuals from 16 nations, was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and found that 95% of cases were spread through sexual activity.

Approximately a third of those affected were known to have gone to sex-on-site locations like sex parties or saunas within the previous month. Overall, 98 percent of those infected were gay or bisexual men.

“This transmission pattern represents both an opportunity to implement targeted public health interventions, and a challenge because in some countries, the communities affected face life-threatening discrimination,” Tedros said earlier, citing concern that stigma and scapegoating could make the outbreak harder to track.

The use of Imvanex, a smallpox vaccine, to treat monkeypox was recommended for clearance by the European Union’s drug authority on Friday.

Since 2013, the European Union has licensed Imvanex, a medication created by Danish pharmaceutical company Bavarian Nordic, for the treatment of smallpox.

Due of the smallpox and monkeypox viruses’ similarities, it was also thought to be a viable vaccination for monkeypox.

Over the course of five days, fever, headaches, muscle discomfort, and back pain are the initial signs of monkeypox.

The face, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet are next to develop rashes, followed by lesions, patches, and eventually scabs.

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