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WHO Considering Monkeypox as a Global Emergency

On Thursday, the World Health Organization (WHO) convened its emergency committee to decide if Monkeypox should be declared a global emergency.

There are worries that the organization’s choice to respond so quickly after the disease reached the West may have exacerbated the shocking differences between wealthy and developing nations that surfaced during the Coronavirus pandemic.

According to reports, A global emergency would signify that the U.N. health agency views the monkeypox outbreak as an “extraordinary event” and that the disease threatens to spread in other countries, requiring a potential global response.

As of Friday, no decisions have been made by the WHO’s emergency committee.

The most recent cases in developed countries are already moving quickly to shut down the epidemic, making a similar declaration unlikely to have any impact on containing the disease.

In a statement last week, the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the recent monkeypox epidemic identified in over 40 countries as “unusual and concerning.”

Monkeypox has sickened people in central and west Africa for decades, where one version of the disease kills up to 10% of its victims. So far, no deaths have been reported outside of Africa from the version of the disease seen in Europe and elsewhere.

“If WHO was really worried about monkeypox spread, they could have convened their emergency committee years ago when it reemerged in Nigeria in 2017, and no one knew why we suddenly had hundreds of cases,” said Oyewale Tomori, a Nigerian virologist. “It is a bit curious that WHO only called their experts when the disease showed up in white countries.”

Monkeypox had not previously produced sizable outbreaks outside of Africa until this month. No changes in the virus have been discovered that would indicate it is more contagious. A senior advisor for the organization stated that the increase in cases in Europe was probably related to sexual activity among gay and bisexual men at two raves in Spain and Belgium.

More than 3,300 cases of Monkeypox have been confirmed by the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention so far in 42 countries where the virus is uncommon. Europe accounts for more than 80% of cases. Over 1,400 cases, including 62 fatalities, have already been reported in Africa this year.

Scientists warn that anyone in close contact with an infected individual or their clothing or bedsheets is in danger of infection, regardless of their sexual orientation. To date, the great majority of cases in Europe have been in males who are gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men. Those who have Monkeypox frequently experience symptoms like fever, body aches, and a rash; the majority recover on their own in a few weeks.

It is uncertain what effects would occur if WHO declared Monkeypox a global emergency.

“After COVID, WHO does not want to be the last to declare monkeypox an emergency,” said Amanda Glassman, executive vice president at the Center for Global Development. “This may not rise to the level of a COVID-like emergency, but it is still a public health emergency that needs to be addressed.”

Salim Abdool Karim, an epidemiologist and vice-chancellor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, believes that the WHO and other organizations need to do more to combat Monkeypox in Africa and elsewhere. However, he is not sure that declaring a global emergency would be beneficial.

“There is this misplaced idea that Africa is this poor, helpless continent when we do know how to deal with epidemics,” said Abdool Karim. He said that stopping the outbreak ultimately depends on surveillance, isolating patients, and public education.

“Maybe they need vaccines in Europe to stop monkeypox, but here, we have been able to control it with straightforward measures,” he said.

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