The head of the World Health Organization stated on Saturday that the monkeypox epidemic was a grave threat that was still developing but did not yet represent a global health emergency.
A panel of specialists was assembled by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Thursday to advise him on whether to issue the UN health agency’s highest alert over the epidemic.
Since early May, there has been a sharp increase in the number of monkeypox cases outside of the West and Central African nations where the illness has long been prevalent. Western Europe has seen the majority of the recent occurrences.
This year, more than 50 nations have reported more than 3,200 confirmed cases, along with one fatality, to the WHO.
According to Tedros, “the emergency committee expressed severe worries about the scope and pace of the current outbreak,” highlighting the many uncertainties surrounding the spread and data gaps.
They informed me that the situation does not currently qualify as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), which is the highest level of alert that the WHO can issue, but they also acknowledged that the committee’s formation itself reflects the growing concern about the spread of monkeypox internationally.
According to Tedros, the epidemic was “obviously an emerging health danger” that required quick response to prevent further transmission by surveillance, contact tracing, patient isolation and care, and ensuring that immunizations and medicines are accessible to people at risk.
According to the WHO summary of the conference, “the great majority of cases are seen among males who have sex with men, of young age,” mostly occurring in metropolitan areas, in “clustered social and sexual networks.”
Despite several members’ different opinions, the committee decided by agreement to inform Tedros that the outbreak was not yet a PHEIC.
The committee did agree that the situation was urgent and that strong reaction measures were needed to prevent the epidemic from spreading further.
Depending on how the outbreak develops, they are prepared to meet again in the upcoming days and weeks.
The group suggested that nations enhance risk communication and diagnosis.
It observed that several characteristics of the epidemic were uncommon, and some of the participants warned that the population’s low degree of antibody to poxvirus infection raised the possibility of prolonged transmission.