The World Health Organization will hold an emergency session next week on monkeypox
The World Health Organization will convene an emergency committee on Thursday next week to assess whether the monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern.
This is the highest level of warning issued by the UN agency, which currently only applies to the COVID-19 pandemic and polio.
There have been 1,600 confirmed and 1,500 suspected cases of monkeypox this year and 72 deaths, according to the WHO, in 39 countries, including those where the virus usually spreads.
Monkeypox is endemic in parts of Africa, but there have been more cases both in these countries and in the rest of the world in recent months. The virus causes flu-like symptoms and skin lesions, and is spread through close contact.
It is believed to be fatal in around three to six percent of cases, according to the WHO, although no deaths have yet been reported in the outbreak outside of Africa. The majority of deaths this year have been in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was time to consider stepping up the response as the virus is behaving in unusual ways, more countries are being affected and international coordination is needed.
“We don’t want to wait for the situation to get out of control,” added WHO Emergency Director for Africa Ibrahima Socé Fall.
Over 100 known infections in Canada
England was able to detect the most cases in the last outbreak, with more than 450.
Canada has detected 112 infections as of June 9, and federal health officials are expected to update the number this week.
The committee meeting next week will be made up of global experts, but the WHO director-general makes the final decision on whether the outbreak deserves the label of public health emergency of international concern, known as from PHEIC.
Experts have been pushing the WHO to act faster for several weeks, following criticism of the agency’s initial response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Along with COVID and polio, other outbreaks have been declared PHEIC, such as Ebola in 2014.
However, a committee can also refrain from sounding the alarm. When a WHO emergency committee was set up to determine whether a yellow fever outbreak in West Africa in 2016 deserved the agency’s highest threat level, it ultimately decided to do not do it.
A WHO determination that an outbreak constitutes a global health emergency can help accelerate research and funding to contain a disease.
Tedros also said the WHO was working with partners to change the name of monkeypox and its variants, as well as a mechanism to help share available vaccines more equitably.
“Today we also released interim guidance on the use of smallpox vaccines for #monkeypox .
Some countries have started vaccinating healthcare workers and close contacts of monkeypox patients using vaccines against smallpox, a related and more serious virus that was eradicated in 1980.
The WHO released new guidelines on vaccination against monkeypox on Tuesday.