WHO declares monkeypox an international emergency due to the large increase in cases

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared an international emergency this Saturday due to the global outbreak of monkeypox, which already exceeds 16,000 cases declared in more than 70 countries and five deaths have been registered so far. This is the highest level of alert collected by the International Health Regulations.

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This global alert comes after the second meeting of this committee, which already met in June to assess the situation. Then it was decided not to declare the emergency and, on this occasion, as explained by the director of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, there has not been a total consensus among the experts either. However, the director of the organization has decided to declare the emergency due to the large increase in data and the growing trend in various regions of the planet. The activation of the alert will mean increasing the alert levels of the national health networks.

"In view of the evolution of the outbreak, I reconvened the committee last Thursday to review the latest data and advise me accordingly," said Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "On this occasion, the committee was unable to reach a consensus on whether the outbreak represents a public health emergency of international importance," the researcher acknowledged.

However, the WHO has decided to activate the alert taking into account five elements about the evolution of this disease: the virus spreads rapidly to many countries "that had not seen it before"; the criteria for declaring an international emergency of the International Health Regulations are met; the advisory committee has not reached a consensus; the tests still leave "many unknowns"; and, finally, there is a risk to human health and international spread.

"The WHO assessment is that the risk of monkeypox is moderate globally and in all regions except the European region, where we assess the risk as high," Adhanom Ghebreyesus differentiated. "For all of these reasons, I have decided that the global outbreak of monkeypox represents a public health emergency of international concern," he concluded.

The fight against stigma

Adhanom Ghebreyesus had already acknowledged this week that he remained very concerned about the high number of cases in more and more countries and that, although in some countries the cases were declining, this trend was not repeated across the board. On the other hand, the specialist also said that most of the cases had occurred in men who have sex with other men and insisted on the importance of not stigmatizing this group.

In 2020, the WHO already declared such an emergency -which is still in force- due to COVID-19. The measure was also issued on other occasions due to several outbreaks of Ebola. Normally, this alert can be declared when a contagious disease spreads to many countries in an uncontrolled way and it is necessary for the different governments to adopt special preventive measures to stop its expansion.

Tedros Adhanom added last week that at the moment there is also not enough information on the number of cases in East and Central Africa, where the disease has been endemic for decades, although the current outbreak has been detected in Europe.

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