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What does the WHO’s declaration that monkeypox is a global health emergency mean?

Homosexual and bisexual men, particularly men who have sex with several partners, have contracted infections in the vast majority of cases.

In 68 nations that have never before reported monkeypox, 16,593 illnesses had been confirmed as of July 22.

The majority of illnesses have been discovered in Europe. It is deemed a worldwide health emergency by the World Health Organization.

The current monkeypox pandemic has been classified as a worldwide health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO). The committee of independent experts was divided on whether to raise the level of notice for the spreading monkeypox outbreak to a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) on Thursday, July 21, 2022.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director of the WHO, ended the impasse by designating the epidemic as a PHEIC.

The WHO director general has never before bypassed his advisors to issue a public health emergency declaration. In 1970, a youngster in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then Zaire) was diagnosed with the first case of monkeypox. Since then, outbreaks have typically been mild and linked to a traveller who has just visited a nation where the virus is endemic, i.e., west and central Africa. But the ongoing person-to-person transmission of the infection makes the present outbreak distinct from any others that have occurred outside of Africa.

In 68 nations that have never before reported monkeypox, 16,593 illnesses had been confirmed as of July 22. The majority of illnesses have been discovered in Europe.

According to models given to the WHO, the average number of people who contract COVID from a single infected person—the so-called R nought—is between 1.4 and 1.8 in men who have sex with men, but less than 1.0 in other populations. Therefore, further significant expansion is unlikely, even though rare illnesses can spread to populations other than males who have sex with men.

The weekly surge in new cases of monkeypox in Europe has slowed down in recent weeks. Although sex with other males accounts for 97% of cases in the UK, it appears that the epidemic’s pace of growth has recently decreased to zero or perhaps turned negative. It’s possible, though, that the apparent decline in new infections is simply the time between successive waves.

Recent debate among experts has focused on whether monkeypox is now considered a sexually transmitted illness. Despite the fact that monkeypox is clearly shared during sex, it would be pointless to classify it as an STD because the infection can spread through any close contact, even while using condoms or without engaging in penetrative sex.

Arguments for and against a global health emergency:

Monkeypox meets the criteria for a PHEIC under the WHO’s International Health Regulations. It is an extraordinary event that poses a public health risk to other States through international transmission and that may call for a coordinated international response. This was one of the main arguments made by the WHO emergency committee in favour of a global health emergency. The sporadic reports of infections in infants and pregnant women, concerns that the diseases could become endemic in human communities, and worries that the viruses could be reintroduced into at-risk groups even after the current monkeypox pandemic are all added to this.

Arguments opposing it included the fact that only 12 countries in Europe and North America now experience the vast majority of infections, and there is evidence that the number of cases in those nations is stabilising or even declining. The majority of instances are in men who have several partners and have sex with other men, which presents potential to reduce transmission by intervening specifically against this group. Another defence is that the disease outside seems to be of modest intensity. Despite the emergency committee’s inability to come to an agreement, Tedros decided to declare a PHEIC. The most impacted nations outside of Africa won’t likely see many changes in control efforts as a result of this proclamation of a global health emergency.

Nevertheless, it might compel those nations with fewer cases to improve the capacity of their health care systems in the event that the epidemic does spread there. Ideally, it will also spur investment in research and enhancements to the ability of endemic nations to control the illness.

What does the WHO’s declaration that monkeypox is a global health emergency mean?

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