spreading fast monkeypox outbreak The alert, at the highest level of the World Health Organization (WHO), represents a global health emergency, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Saturday.
The WHO label – a “public health emergency of international concern” – is designed to sound the alarm that a coordinated international response is needed and could unlock funding and global efforts to collaborate on the sharing of vaccines and treatments. .
Members of an expert committee that met on Thursday to discuss a possible recommendation were divided on the decision, two sources who spoke on condition of anonymity told Reuters The first, but final decision falls on the Director-General of the United Nations Agency.
Announcing his decision to declare a health emergency during a media briefing in Geneva, Tedros confirmed that the committee had failed to reach a consensus, with nine members in favor of the declaration and six in favor.
Previously, Tedros has generally supported the expert committee’s recommendations, but sources said that he had raised the highest alert level due to concerns about rising case rates and short supplies of vaccines and treatments, despite a lack of majority opinion. had decided to return.
Lawrence Gostin, a Georgetown law professor in Washington DC, who follows the WHO, said he appreciated the agency’s political bravery.
“It does nothing but burn the stature of the WHO. The correct outcome is clear – not declaring a state of emergency at this point would be a historic missed opportunity.”
So far this year, more than 16,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in more than 75 countries and there have been five deaths in Africa.
Explainer: How worried should we be about monkeypox?
The viral disease – which is spread by close contact and causes flu-like symptoms and pus-filled skin sores – has been spreading primarily among men who have sex with men in recent outbreaks, outside of Africa. where it is local.
Until now, the label was only applied to the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing efforts to eradicate polio.
WHO and national governments are facing intense pressure from scientists and public health experts to take more action on monkeypox.
Cases of the viral disease have increased since the committee’s first meeting in late June, when there were only about 3,000 cases.
At the time, the expert group agreed to reconsider its position on the emergency declaration if the outbreak escalates.
One of the key issues to be reevaluated was whether the cases – which are almost exclusively spread among men who have sex with men – would bleed into other groups, especially children, or other people in endemic countries. have been vulnerable to the virus in past outbreaks.
On Friday, the United States identified its first two monkeypox cases in children.
The committee had said that any change in the virus itself can be reconsidered.
The group is now split between those who think that an emergency declaration will accelerate efforts to contain the disease, and those who do not think the above criteria are met because the disease has not yet spread to new groups of people. There was spread or high mortality, the sources said.