LONDON (AP) — The monkeypox outbreak spreading to more than 70 countries is an “extraordinary” situation that qualifies as a global emergency, the head of the World Health Organization said Saturday, a statement that could spur increased investment in treating the once-rare disease and worsen the situation. fight for scarce vaccines.
A global emergency is WHO’s highest alert level, but the designation does not necessarily mean a disease is particularly communicable or deadly. Similar statements were made for the ongoing effort to eradicate polio and the covid-19 pandemic.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the decision to call monkeypox a global emergency despite a lack of consensus among experts on the UN health agency’s emergency committee, saying that acted as “a tiebreaker”. It was the first time a UN health agency chief had unilaterally made such a decision without expert advice.
“We have an outbreak that has spread rapidly around the world through new modes of transmission, about which we know very little,” Tedros said. “I know that this has not been an easy or straightforward process and that there are divergent views.”
WHO emergencies chief Dr Michael Ryan said the director-general declared monkeypox a global emergency to ensure the world takes current outbreaks seriously.
Although monkeypox has been established in parts of central and western Africa for decades, it was not known to cause large outbreaks beyond the continent or to spread widely among people until May, when authorities detected dozens of epidemics in Europe. North America and other places.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 16,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in 74 countries since about May. To date, monkeypox deaths have only been reported in Africa, where a more dangerous version of the virus is spreading, mainly in Nigeria and the Congo.
In Africa, monkeypox is transmitted primarily to people from infected wild animals, such as rodents, in limited outbreaks that have generally not crossed borders. However, in Europe, North America and elsewhere, monkeypox is spreading among people who have no ties to animals and have not recently traveled to Africa.
Officials have said the virus can spread through close personal contact and through towels and bedding. That means it can happen in homes, likely through prolonged or intensive contact, said Dr. James Lawler, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
The WHO’s top monkeypox expert, Dr. Rosamund Lewis, said this week that 99% of all monkeypox cases beyond Africa were in men, and of those, 98% involved males. men who have sex with men. Experts suspect that monkeypox outbreaks in Europe and North America were transmitted through sex at two raves in Belgium and Spain.
Britain recently downgraded its assessment of monkeypox after seeing no signs of widespread transmission beyond men who have sex with men and noting that the disease does not spread easily or cause serious illness.
The UN agency has previously said it is working to create a vaccine-sharing mechanism for the worst-affected countries, but offered few details on how it might work. There is only one manufacturer of monkeypox vaccines, Bavarian Nordic of Denmark.
Although countries such as Britain, Canada, Germany and the US ordered millions of doses of monkeypox vaccine, none were sent to Africa.
“The solution must be global,” said Dr. Placide Mbala, a virologist who heads the global health department at Congo’s National Institute for Biomedical Research. He said that any vaccine sent to Africa would be used to target people most at risk.
“Vaccination in the West could help stop the outbreak there, but there will still be cases in Africa,” he said. “Unless the problem is resolved here, the risk to the rest of the world will remain.”
2 CHILDREN INFECTED
Two children have been diagnosed with monkeypox in the US, health officials said Friday.
One is a young child in California and the other is an infant who is not a US resident but was tested while in Washington, DC, according to the CDC.
The children were described as being in good health and receiving treatment. How they contracted the disease is being investigated, but authorities believe it was through domestic transmission.
Other details were not immediately disclosed.
In addition to the two pediatric cases, health officials said they were aware of at least eight women among the more than 2,800 cases reported in the US so far.
In Europe, there have been at least six cases of monkeypox among children 17 years of age and younger.
Doctors in the Netherlands published a report last week of a boy who was treated at an Amsterdam hospital with around 20 reddish-brown lumps on his body. It was monkeypox and the doctors couldn’t determine how he got it.
The CDC said it “supported” the WHO emergency declaration and hoped it would prompt international action to end the outbreaks. The US has reported more than 2,800 cases of monkeypox and has shipped more than 370,000 doses of vaccine to US states that have reported cases.
In the United States, some experts have speculated that monkeypox might be on the verge of becoming an entrenched sexually transmitted disease in the country, like gonorrhea, herpes and HIV.
While the virus has been spreading primarily among men who have sex with men, “I don’t think it’s surprising that we occasionally see cases” outside of that social network, the CDC’s Jennifer McQuiston told reporters on Friday.
Information for this article was contributed by Maria Cheng, Jamey Keaten, and Mike Stobbe of The Associated Press.