Home General News WHO looks at decision on monkeypox ’emergency’

WHO looks at decision on monkeypox ’emergency’

by Anthony L. Gonzalez

The World Health Organization plans to decide whether monkeypox will be declared a global health emergency, sparking criticism from leading African scientists who say it has been a crisis in their region for years.

The deliberations and scrutiny of the WHO’s response to the outbreak follow concerns about how the United Nations agency and governments worldwide were coping with COVID-19 in early 2020.

A “public health emergency of international concern” is the WHO’s highest alert level.


The agency does not declare pandemics but began using the term to describe COVID-19 in March 2020.

For many governments, instead of the WHO’s earlier January emergency declaration, that was when they began to take real action to try and contain COVID-19, which proved too late to make a difference.

Monkeypox doesn’t spread nearly as easily as COVID-19 and vaccines and treatments are available, unlike the coronavirus when it emerged.

But it still sounded the alarm.

The number of cases of the current outbreak outside Africa has surpassed 3,000 in more than 40 countries, according to a Reuters tally — largely among men who have sex with men — since it was first reported in May.

There are no reports of deaths.

The viral disease causes flu-like symptoms and skin lesions and is endemic to parts of Central and West Africa.

According to official data, the continent has registered about 1,500 suspected cases since the beginning of 2022, 66 of which have been fatal.

“When a disease strikes developing countries, it is (apparently) not an emergency. It won’t become an emergency until developed countries are hit,” said Professor Emmanuel Nakoune, acting director of the Institut Pasteur in Bangui, Central African Republic, which is conducting a trial of monkeypox treatment.

Still, Professor Nakoune said that if the WHO declares an emergency regarding monkeypox, it would still be an important step.

“If there is the political will to divide the response resources fairly between developed and developing countries…any country will benefit,” he said.

At an online briefing with reporters on Thursday, the acting director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, said monkeypox cases and deaths on the continent were already at “emergency levels”.

The WHO will convene a closed meeting of experts in Geneva at 12:00 noon.

It is not yet clear when the decision will be announced.

The emergency committee meeting on Thursday will be attended by experts from the worst-hit regions, who have also consulted with scientists, including Nakoune.

They will make a recommendation to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who will make the final decision on whether or not to call the emergency.

The move mainly serves to raise the alarm and could prompt further guidance from the WHO and draw Member States’ attention.

The WHO has already issued detailed guidance on the outbreak and is working on a mechanism for sharing treatments and vaccines.

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