WHO says monkeypox is not an international public health emergency, but should continue to be monitored

The WHO called an emergency committee meeting on Thursday to discuss the severity of the monkeypox outbreak. The outcome of the meeting was announced on Saturday.

“Overall, in the report, they (the emergency committee) informed me that at this time the event does not constitute a public health emergency of international concern, which is the highest level of alert that the WHO may issue, but acknowledged that the convening of the committee itself reflects growing concern over the international spread of monkeypox,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. published on Saturday.

Tedros on Thursday called for intensified monkeypox surveillance, warning that “while men who have sex with men have been most affected by these new outbreaks, there are also risks of serious illness for immunocompromised people, pregnant women and children if they are infected”.

Healthcare workers are also at risk if they don’t wear proper personal protective equipment, Tedros said in his opening remarks at the meeting.

Last week, Tedros said “the virus is behaving in unusual ways compared to how it has behaved in the past” and as more countries are affected, a coordinated response was needed.

Saturday’s statement acknowledged the “evolving health threat” which the WHO would be following very closely.

What is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern?

The WHO defines a public health emergency of international concern, or PHEIC, as “an extraordinary event” that poses a “public health risk to other states through the international spread of disease” and “that potentially requires an international response.” coordinate”.

This definition comes from the International Health Regulations, which were created in 2005 and represent a legal agreement involving 196 countries with the aim of helping the international community prevent and respond to public health risks that could 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 enhance the ability to detect and report potential public health emergencies worldwide. The IHR require all countries have the capacity to detect, assess, report and respond to public health events.”

There are two ongoing emergencies: poliomyelitis, which began in 2014, and Covid-19, from 2020.

Four other USPPIs have been declared since the introduction of the regulations: the H1N1 flu from 2009 to 2010, Ebola from 2014 to 2016 and from 2019 to 2020 and the Zika virus in 2016.

There were more than 3,200 confirmed cases of monkeypox and one death reported to 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 situation update.

Tedros stressed the importance for countries to share information with the WHO.

“In other epidemics, we have sometimes seen the consequences of countries’ lack of transparency, of not sharing information,” he said. “We need case finding, contact tracing, laboratory investigation, genome sequencing and implementation of infection prevention and control measures; we need information on different clades of monkeypox virus; we need clear case definitions to help identify and report infections; and we need all countries to remain vigilant and build capacity to prevent onward transmission of monkeypox. likely that many countries will have missed opportunities to identify cases, including cases in the community without any recent travel.

Monkeypox is a rare disease and is a much less serious cousin of the now eradicated smallpox virus.

It is endemic to parts of West and Central Africa and is usually contracted from a rodent or small mammal. It is not easily transmitted from person to person.

However, monkeypox virus can be spread through contact with body fluids, monkeypox sores, 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.

CNN’s Keith Allen contributed to this report.

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