WHO panel: Monkey smallpox is not a global emergency “at this stage”

LONDON (AP) – The World Health Organization says the outbreak of smallpox in more than 50 countries needs to be closely monitored, but does not guarantee that global health will be declared a state of emergency.

In a statement on Saturday, the World Health Organization’s emergency committee acknowledged that many aspects of the epidemic were “exceptional” and that endemic monkeys had been neglected for years in some African countries.

“Although several members expressed differing views, the committee decided by consensus to advise the WHO Director-General that the epidemic should not become a global health emergency at this stage,” the WHO said in a statement.

The WHO, however, said the epidemic was an “emergency” and that controlling its spread would require an “intensive response.”

The committee said the epidemic “should be closely monitored and reviewed in a few weeks.” However, if some new incidents occur, such as among sex workers; spread to other countries or within countries where there have been cases before; exacerbation of diseases; or growth rate of prevalence.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Gebreisus called an emergency committee on Thursday after expressing concern over the monkey epidemic. In countries that have not previously reported the disease.

“What makes the current epidemic especially rapid is the rapid and continuous spread to new countries and regions and the risk of infecting vulnerable groups, including people with weakened immune systems, pregnant women and children,” said the WHO chief.

Smallpox has plagued people in Central and West Africa for decadesbut until last month, it was not known whether the disease had caused serious epidemics in several countries at the same time and affected people who had no travel connection with the continent.

The declaration of a global health emergency means that the health crisis is an “emergency” event that requires a globally managed response and that the risk of the disease crossing the border is high. The WHO has already made similar declarations on diseases, including COVID-19. Ebola in Congo and Zika in West Africa and Brazil and ongoing efforts to eradicate polio.

The declaration of a state of emergency serves mainly as a request to draw global resources and attention to the epidemic. Given that the World Health Organization is weak in trying to persuade countries to act, previous announcements have had different effects.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says this week it has confirmed more than 3,200 cases of smallpox in about 40 countries. The vast majority of cases are in men who have sex with gay, bisexual or other men, and more than 80% in Europe.

A leading World Health Organization adviser said last month that the rise in cases in Europe could be due to men’s sexual activity in Spain and Belgium, and that its emergence in the gay and bisexual community was “accidental.” British officials say most cases in the UK involve men who say they have had sex with other men in places such as saunas and sex clubs.

Researchers warn that anyone who has physical contact with a person with smallpox, or with their clothing or bedding, is at risk of contracting the disease, regardless of their sexual orientation.

People with smallpox often experience symptoms such as fever, body aches, and rashes; Most recover within a few weeks without the need for medical attention.

In Africa, smallpox often affects people who come in contact with diseased wild animals, such as rodents or primates. In Congo, Cameroon and the Central African Republic, about 1,500 cases of monkey smallpox have been reported, including 70 deaths.

To date, scientists have not been able to find infectious or fatal mutations in the monkey smallpox virus, but the number of detected changes indicates that the virus has been spreading unnoticed for many years.

The non-African version of the disease usually has a mortality rate of less than 1%, while the African version has a mortality rate of up to 10%.

The World Health Organization is also setting up a mechanism to share monkey vaccines that could travel to rich countries such as Britain, which currently has the largest epidemic outside of Africa.

Some experts have warned that a pandemic could exacerbate deep inequalities between rich and poor countries.

“France, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom already have a lot of resources and vaccines and they don’t need WHO vaccines,” the doctor said. Irwin Redlener, Columbia University Disaster Preparedness and Response Expert.

“What we need to do is try to help countries in Africa where monkeys are endemic and often overlooked,” he said. “Monkeypox is not COVID, but we should not be distracted. It will only be a problem when it is found in rich countries.”

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