WHO declares monkeypox virus: A global health emergency as infections soar

On Saturday, the World Health Organization called the international monkeypox outbreak a global emergency. This decision shows how worried people are about how quickly the virus is causing infections to spread.

Public Health Emergency of International Concern

The WHO’s decision to call the outbreak a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern,” which is the highest level of alert, is expected to bring in more money to fight the outbreak and put pressure on governments to act. Monkeypox has been found in more than 16,500 people in 74 countries.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Saturday, “In short, we have an outbreak that has quickly spread around the world through new ways of spreading that we don’t know enough about.”

The decision means that the world now has to deal with two viral diseases, COVID-19 and monkeypox, that are so dangerous that they are considered health emergencies. Early in 2020, the WHO said that the coronavirus pandemic was a global crisis.

Monkeypox is moderate around the world

WHO officials said that the risk of monkeypox is moderate around the world, but it is high in Europe, where most of the infections have been reported in an outbreak that started in the spring.

Tedros said that one reason he moved to declare a global health emergency is that the outbreak, which is mostly happening among men who have sex with other men, might be stopped.

“That means that the right strategies in the right groups can stop this outbreak,” Tedros said.

The head of the WHO said that any measures to stop the spread of the disease must respect the “human rights and dignity” of gay and bisexual men.

Tedros said that stigma and discrimination can be just as dangerous as a virus.

WHO officials also said that a culture of public health in the community that has been shaped by the AIDS crisis can help stop the outbreak.

The global health agency’s announcement came with suggestions for how to improve a coordinated global response to monkeypox. These suggestions include increasing surveillance, speeding up research into vaccines and treatments, and improving hospital infection control.

Symptoms of monkeypox

The recommendations say that people shouldn’t travel if they have symptoms of monkeypox or are being watched for their health after being around someone who has it.

The emergency declaration came after the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee met for the second time. At their first meeting a month ago, they decided not to take this step.

Tedros said that the committee was still split on whether or not the outbreak was an emergency on Saturday, with nine members against declaring an emergency and six in favor. But the director general did something unusual: he didn’t listen to what the committee said and still called an emergency.

Public health has criticized

The committee members who didn’t think an emergency should be declared gave a number of reasons, such as early signs that the outbreak was getting better. They also said that there wasn’t much evidence that the disease spreads beyond men who have sex with other men, and they were worried that a health emergency would lead to more discrimination against LGBT people in countries where being gay is illegal.

Some experts and people who care about public health have criticized the decision not to issue the highest alert in late June. They said that a declaration at that time would have made it easier for everyone to work together to stop the virus from spreading.

In the last two months, monkeypox has spread around the world at a rate that has never been seen before. The zoonotic virus has been around for decades and is common in some parts of Africa. It can cause flu-like symptoms and rashes that spread all over the body. But during the most recent outbreak, there were a lot more cases in countries that had never had monkeypox before.

Experts think that close contact during male-to-male sexual activity is a major way that the current outbreak is spreading. The virus spreads through other types of skin-to-skin contact, through long-term breathing contact, and through the sharing of contaminated items or items that have been infected by the virus. A small number of women and children have also been diagnosed with monkeypox, according to the government.

Rosamund Lewis, the technical lead for monkeypox at the WHO Health Emergency Program, said that men who have sex with other men seem to be more likely to get monkeypox because they go to more parties and events where they have intimate contact with more than one partner.

Lewis said, “This is a situation where there is obviously more skin-to-skin contact.”

Since monkeypox is caused by the same virus family as the much more dangerous smallpox, vaccines and medicines that have been stored in case smallpox come back can be used to prevent and treat monkeypox.

And earlier this month, it was said that nearly 800,000 more doses of monkeypox vaccine could be ready for distribution in the United States by the end of July after an inspection of a Danish vaccine plant by the Food and Drug Administration and the expected approval of the plant.

In the latest monkeypox outbreak, there haven’t been many deaths, but some men have been hospitalized with terrible pain from sores near their genitalia.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Spain has more than 3,100 confirmed cases, which makes it the country with the most infections. With almost 2,900 cases, the United States has the second-highest number. Germany and Britain each have more than 2,200 cases.

Monkeypox in children

On Friday, health officials found the first two cases of monkeypox in children in the United States. The CDC says that the two cases in children, which were found this week in an infant and a toddler, were probably spread in the same home.

On Saturday, the CDC said that it agreed with the WHO’s emergency declaration, “as it can help bring the international community together to fight this virus more quickly and effectively.”

The WHO’s move is not likely to change the way the U.S. responds in a direct way. But it could put pressure on the Biden administration to call monkeypox a public health emergency. This could lead to more money and require states and local governments to give the CDC more information.

Experts say that the way the U.S. handled monkeypox was similar to how it handled the early coronavirus outbreak.

In an interview with Washington Post Live on Friday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said that inconsistent data makes it hard for the agency to see trends in things like race and ethnicity, sexual behavior, and vaccinations.

“And yet again, just like with COVID, we’re in a tough spot because our agency doesn’t have the right to get that data,” Walensky said.

Monkeypox is a global emergency

The WHO’s decision to call monkeypox a global emergency was praised by people who care about public health.

“As monkeypox cases continue to rise and spread to more countries, we now face a double challenge: an endemic disease in Africa that has been ignored for decades, and a new outbreak in marginalized communities,” Josie Golding, head of epidemics and epidemiology at the global health organization Wellcome, said in a statement. “Governments need to take this more seriously and work with each other around the world to stop this outbreak.”

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