WHO considers declaring monkeypox a 'global emergency'
Amid the surge in cases of monkeypox in various parts of the world, the WHO’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee convened for the second time since June on Thursday (July 21).
The international body is considering declaring monkeypox a global emergency.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed 14,000 cases of monkeypox worldwide, with five deaths reported in Africa.
The Director-General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “WHO will continue to do everything we can to support countries to stop transmission and save lives.”
While the international health body is considering declaring the disease a global emergency, some experts believe that the striking differences between the outbreaks in Africa and those in western countries will complicate the situation if a coordinated response is planned.
“What’s happening in Africa is almost entirely separate from the outbreak in Europe and North America,” said Dr Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the Britain’s University of East Anglia.
He also emphasised the use of vaccines as the best way to curb the spread.
As per reports, the disease is already being treated as a national emergency in Africa, experts elsewhere have said that observing mild symptoms of the disease across western countries makes it unnecessary for WHO to declare it a global emergency.
The disease is spreading in parts of Europe and North America.
Monkeypox virus which seldom infected human beings was present for decades in parts of central and western Africa. It usually infected animals and spread in humans was reportedly rare.
The spread of disease in Europe, America and other parts of the world has been found to be highest among gay and bisexual men, experts have observed.
However, the disease can infect anybody in close vicinity of an infected person, irrespective of one’s sexual orientation.
Dr Hunter said that the stigma around homosexuality makes it difficult to do contact tracing of the disease.
Doctors in Africa are also observing the variation in symptoms across the countries. While the lesions are more visible and prominent in patients from Africa, the number and visibility of lesions are lesser in western countries.
Dr Ishwar Gilada from Mumbai who is an infectious disease expert and consultant for HIV and STDs has said that monkeypox is just like any other sexually transmitted infection.
He said: “Somehow WHO is not declaring it as it will cause some kind of stigma or discrimination against people who are currently infected with it.”
“Almost 99 per cent of cases have been observed in gay men. The disease is mostly spread through close or very close personal contact,” Dr Gilada said.
While WHO is considering to take a decision on disease’s global status, many experts believe that declaring monkeypox as a global emergency would worsen the rush for vaccines and thereby deepen the divide between rich and poor countries.
Experts fear that poor countries might suffer from shortage of vaccines where chunk of vaccines will be taken in by rich countries.