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Here We Go: WHO Declares Monkeypox Outbreak a Global Health Emergency

Pavlo Gonchar | Lightrocket | Getty Images

On Saturday, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency just before the midterm elections.

On Thursday, members of the expert committee met to discuss the recommendations regarding the ongoing monkeypox outbreak. According to Reuters, two sources told that members of an expert committee were split on the decision, but the responsibility for making the final decision rests with the director-general Tedros.

“WHO’s assessment is that the risk of monkeypox is moderate globally and in all regions, except in the European region where we assess the risk as high,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“There is also a clear risk of further international spread, although the risk of interference with international traffic remains low for the moment.

“So in short, we have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly, through new modes of transmission, about which we understand too little, and which meets the criteria in the International Health Regulations.

“For all of these reasons, I have decided that the global monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern,” Tedros announced.

“The WHO label – a “public health emergency of international concern” – is designed to sound an alarm that a coordinated international response is needed and could unlock funding and global efforts to collaborate on sharing vaccines and treatments,” per Reuters.

Below is the temporary recommendations issued by the WHO Director-General in relation to the multi-country outbreak of monkeypox:

First, those that have not yet reported a case of monkeypox, or have not reported a case for more than 21 days;

Second, those with recently imported cases of monkeypox and that are experiencing human-to-human transmission.

This includes recommendations to implement a coordinated response to stop transmission and protect vulnerable groups;

  • To engage and protect affected communities;
  • To intensify surveillance and public health measures;
  • To strengthen clinical management and infection prevention and control in hospitals and clinics;
  • To accelerate research into the use of vaccines, therapeutics and other tools;
  • And recommendations on international travel.

The third group of countries is those with transmission of monkeypox between animals and humans;

And the fourth is countries with manufacturing capacity for diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics.

Read the rest of Tedros’ statement:

I thank the Emergency Committee for its deliberations and advice. I know this has not been an easy or straightforward process, and that there are divergent views among the members.

The International Health Regulations remains a vital tool for responding to the international spread of disease.

But this process demonstrates once again that this vital tool needs to be sharpened to make it more effective.

So I’m pleased that alongside the process of negotiating a new international accord on pandemic preparedness and response, WHO’s Member States are also considering targeted amendments to the International Health Regulations, including ways to improve the process for declaring a public health emergency of international concern.

Although I am declaring a public health emergency of international concern, for the moment this is an outbreak that is concentrated among men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners.

That means that this is an outbreak that can be stopped with the right strategies in the right groups.

It’s therefore essential that all countries work closely with communities of men who have sex with men, to design and deliver effective information and services, and to adopt measures that protect the health, human rights and dignity of affected communities.

Stigma and discrimination can be as dangerous as any virus.

In addition to our recommendations to countries, I am also calling on civil society organizations, including those with experience in working with people living with HIV, to work with us on fighting stigma and discrimination.

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