Monkeypox may be Deemed a Global Health Emergency by WHO

The World Health Organization’s emergency committee meets on Thursday to discuss whether the rapidly spreading monkeypox outbreak justifies the declaration of a worldwide emergency.

However, some scientists fear that the WHO’s choice to take action until after the epidemic spread to the West may have contributed to the grotesque disparities between wealthy and developing nations that emerged during the coronavirus pandemic.

A worldwide emergency would signify that the U.N. health agency views the monkeypox outbreak as a “exceptional event” and that the disease poses a threat of spreading to other countries, necessitating a potential international response. The COVID-19 epidemic and the continuing campaign to eradicate polio would likewise share the same distinction as monkeypox under this proposal.

The WHO stated that no decisions reached by its emergency committee were anticipated to be made public before Friday.

Since the wealthy nations documenting the most recent cases are already acting rapidly to stop it, many scientists are sceptical that such a proclamation will assist to stop the epidemic.

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The latest monkeypox pandemic discovered in more than 40 countries, primarily in Europe, was dubbed “strange and worrying” by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last week. In central and west Africa, where up to 10% of those who contract the disease die, monkeypox has been a chronic illness for many years. There have been no recorded fatalities in the epidemic outside of Africa so far.

“If WHO was really concerned about monkeypox spreading, they could have constituted their emergency committee years ago,” said Oyewale Tomori, a Nigerian virologist who sits on multiple WHO advisory groups. “It reemerged in Nigeria in 2017, and no one knew why we suddenly had hundreds of cases.” It is a little odd, he remarked, that WHO only consulted its experts after the illness appeared in white nations.

Monkeypox had not previously produced sizable epidemics outside of Africa until this month. Scientists haven’t discovered any significant genetic alterations in the virus, and a top WHO advisor stated last month that the recent spike in infections in Europe was probably caused by gay and bisexual males engaging in sexual behaviour at two raves in Spain and Belgium.

More than 3,300 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed by the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention so far in 42 nations where the virus is uncommon. Europe accounts for more than 80% of instances. Over 1,400 cases, including 62 fatalities, have already been reported in Africa this year.

According to David Fidler, a senior fellow in global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, the WHO’s increased focus on monkeypox due to its spread outside of Africa could unintentionally widen the gap between wealthy and developing nations that was already evident during COVID-19.

According to Fidler, there may be good reasons why WHO only raised the alarm when monkeypox spread to wealthy nations. However, to developing nations, this appears to be a double standard. According to him, the world community is still working to provide the world’s impoverished people coronavirus vaccines, and given other priorities like malaria and HIV, it’s not obvious if Africans really want monkeypox vaccines.

Since it’s in the West’s best interest to prevent the export of monkeypox, Fidler suggested that sending vaccines to Africa unless the African governments actively request them would come seen as patronising.

The WHO has also suggested developing a vaccine-sharing system to aid affected nations, which might result in doses being sent to wealthy nations like Britain, which has the largest monkeypox outbreak outside of Africa and has lately expanded its vaccination use.

Scientists warn that anyone in intimate touch with an infected individual or their clothing or bedsheets is at danger of infection, regardless of their sexual orientation. To yet, the great majority of cases in Europe have been in males who are gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men. Those who have monkeypox frequently experience symptoms like fever, body aches, and a rash; the majority recover on their own in a few of weeks.

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It is unknown what effects would result even if the WHO declares monkeypox a global emergency

The WHO deemed COVID-19 a global emergency in January 2020. However, until the organisation classified it as a pandemic in March, weeks after numerous other authorities did likewise, few nations paid it any attention. Later, the WHO came under fire for its numerous errors during the pandemic, which some experts claimed may have sped up the response to monkeypox.

According to Amanda Glassman, executive vice president at the Center for Global Development, “WHO does not want to be the last to designate monkeypox an emergency after COVID.” Even though this situation may not be as urgent as a COVID-like emergency, it still needs to be handled.

In order to stop monkeypox in Africa and abroad, Salim Abdool Karim, an epidemiologist and vice chancellor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, said the WHO and others should be doing more. However, he wasn’t sure that a worldwide emergency declaration would help.

Abdool Karim stated, “There is this misguided notion that Africa is this poor, helpless continent, but in reality, we do know how to deal with epidemics. He claimed that preventing the outbreak ultimately rests on measures such as public awareness campaigns, patient isolation, and surveillance.

However, he added, “Here, we have been able to manage it with very easy techniques. Perhaps they need vaccines in Europe to stop monkeypox.”

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