The WHO convened an emergency committee meeting on Thursday to discuss the seriousness of the monkeypox outbreak. The outcome of the meeting was announced on Saturday.
“In general, in the report, they (the emergency committee) advised me that at the moment the event does not represent an emergency in public health of international importance, which is the highest level of alert that the WHO can issue, but acknowledged that convening the committee itself itself reflects growing concerns about the international spread of monkeypox, ”WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement issued Saturday.
Tedros on Thursday called for increased surveillance of monkeypox, warning that “although men who have sex with men are most affected by these new epidemics, there are also risks of serious illness for immunocompromised people, pregnant women and children if infected.”
Healthcare workers are also at risk if they do not wear appropriate personal protective equipment, Tedros said in an introductory speech at the meeting.
Last week, Tedros said that “the virus is behaving strangely from how it has behaved in the past” and as more and more countries are affected, a coordinated response was necessary.
A statement on Saturday confirmed the “evolving health threat” that the WHO will monitor very closely.
What is a public health emergency of international importance?
The WHO defines a public health emergency of international importance, or PHEIC, as “an extraordinary event” that poses a “risk to the public health of other states through the international spread of disease” and “potentially requires a coordinated international response”.
This definition derives from the International Health Regulations, which were drafted in 2005 and represent a legal agreement involving 196 countries with the aim of assisting the international community in preventing and responding to public health risks that may spread around the world.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes the regulations as “a legally binding agreement by 196 countries to build the capacity to detect and report potential public health emergencies around the world. The IHR requires all countries to be able to detect, assess, report and respond to public health events.”
Two emergencies are underway: polio, which began in 2014, and Covid-19, starting in 2020.
Since the introduction of the regulations, four more PHEICs have been declared: H1N1 flu from 2009 to 2010, Ebola from 2014 to 2016 and from 2019 to 2020, and the Zika virus in 2016.
More than 3,200 confirmed cases of monkeypox and one death were reported to the WHO in 48 countries between January 1, 2022 and June 15, 2022, Tedros said in his opening remarks.
The death occurred in Nigeria, according to the new situation.
Tedros stressed the importance of countries sharing information with the WHO.
“In other epidemics, we have sometimes seen the consequences of non-transparency of countries, non-exchange of information,” he said. “We need case finding, contact tracking, laboratory testing, genome sequencing and implementation of infection prevention and control measures; We need information on different types of monkeypox virus; We need clear case definitions to help identify and report infections; And we need all countries to stay vigilant and strengthen their capacities to prevent further transmission of apes. Many countries are likely to miss the opportunity to identify cases, including cases in the community without a recent trip. “
Smallpox is a rare disease and is a much less severe relative of the now eradicated smallpox virus.
It is endemic to parts of West and Central Africa and is usually infected by rodents or small mammals. It is not easily transmitted from one person to another.
However, the monkeypox virus can be spread by contact with body fluids, monkeypox wounds, or items such as clothing and bedding contaminated with the virus. It can also spread from person to person through respiratory droplets, usually in a close environment, according to the CDC.
Keith Allen of CNN contributed to this report.
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