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The World Health Organization has now declared the highest alert level in relation to the Monkeypox outbreak. With this, the Monkeypox is now considered an international emergency.
The declaration means that the health agency considers the virus and its outbreak a potential threat to countries across the globe. It also aims to call on leaders to work together to scale down the spread of the virus.
However, it does not impose countries and require them to abide by the protocols created by the WHO; the alert level should catch the attention of world leaders. The WHO does not impose protocols upon countries, rather, the agency can only disseminate recommendations and guidelines.
Last month, the agency was reluctant to declare the outbreak as a global emergency. But with the unprecedented rise in the number of cases, the WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was compelled to raise the alert to the maximum.
Before an outbreak is given the highest level, officials from the emergency committee will meet first and assess the conditions. The evaluation will then be endorsed to the director general. In the case of the Monkeypox outbreak, the emergency committee did not reach a consensus on the declaration of a health emergency. It was Tedros, under his authority as the chief of the WHO, who decided that the outbreak be issued the highest alert.
“We have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly, through new modes of transmission, about which we understand too little,” the director general stated. “For all of these reasons, I have decided that the global monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern.”
Over 16,000 positive cases of the virus are on record in 70 countries, showing a 77% surge from June to July. The data from the WHO further stipulated that many of the transmissions can be attributed to same-sex activities.
Africa recorded 5 deaths from the virus. Countries outside Africa recorded zero deaths so far.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that patients of Monkeypox have been recovering – usually two to four weeks after they have tested positive for the virus.
Those infected experience symptoms like fever, fatigue, etc. The most obvious symptoms are rashes that spread across the body – it looks like blisters or pimples and as per patients, are very painful.
The outbreak is unusual
According to experts, the current outbreak is unusual as it is spreading across regions where it has not historically breached before. The usual areas where the virus spread include West and Central Africa where it is endemic, and records show that the degree of spread is low.
The epicenter of the outbreak, Europe, comprise 80% of the total reported cases of Monkeypox. In the US, over 2,500 cases have been confirmed in 44 states including Washington and Puerto Rico.
According to experts, they are not certain where the spread began. The United Kingdom earlier confirmed a case from a person who traveled to Nigeria. However, a few days later, more were recorded but it appears that the cases were locally transmitted.
Following suit, the US, Canada, and other nations in Europe then detected Monkeypox in their jurisdictions.
WHO last declared a global emergency for an outbreak was in January 2020 when Covid-19 struck countries. When the cases surged, the Covid-19 outbreak then became a pandemic.
According to the lead expert on monkeypox, Dr. Rosamund Lewis, the Monkeypox outbreak is far from being categorized as a pandemic.
But many experts have expressed concern about the rate of spread and the number of countries where Monkeypox has entered. The virus may latch on to these countries and permanently take dwelling.
“This transmission has been occurring in African countries in two particular zones over a large number of years, and we don’t fully understand what’s driving transmission in those countries,” stated the head of the WHO’s health emergencies program, Dr. Mike Ryan. “There’s a lot more investigation to do and a lot more investment to make in understanding that problem.”