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Monkeypox current outbreak is unusual, warns WHO. 10 points

This file handout photo taken in the year 2004 and received on May 23, 2022 from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the German federal government agency and research institute responsible for disease control and prevention, shows an ultrathin section electron-microscopic capture of the monkeypox virus. (AFP)Premium
This file handout photo taken in the year 2004 and received on May 23, 2022 from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the German federal government agency and research institute responsible for disease control and prevention, shows an ultrathin section electron-microscopic capture of the monkeypox virus. (AFP)

  • WHO said in a separate statement that although there were some differing views within the committee, they ultimately agreed by consensus that at this stage the outbreak is not a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)

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WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that he was deeply concerned about Monkeypox but stated that the outbreak is not yet a global health emergency.

Many aspects of the current multi-country outbreak are unusual, such as the occurrence of cases in countries where monkeypox virus circulation had not been previously documented, and the fact that the vast majority of cases is observed among men who have sex with men, of young age, not previously immunised against smallpox, the UN agency noted.

Here are the 10 things that you need to know:

- WHO said in a separate statement that although there were some differing views within the committee, they ultimately agreed by consensus that at this stage the outbreak is not a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

- The "global emergency" label currently only applies to the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing efforts to eradicate polio, and the UN agency has stepped back from applying it to the monkeypox outbreak after advice from a meeting of international experts.

- Some members of the UN health agency suggested that, given the low level of population immunity against pox virus infection, there is a risk of further, sustained transmission into the wider population that should not be overlooked. 

- The Committee also stressed that monkeypox virus activity has been neglected and not well controlled for years in countries in the WHO African Region.

- There have been more than 3,200 confirmed cases of monkeypox and one death reported in the last six weeks from 48 countries where it does not usually spread, according to WHO.

- So far this year almost 1,500 cases and 70 deaths in central Africa, where the disease is more common, have also been reported, chiefly in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

- Monkeypox, a viral illness causing flu-like symptoms and skin lesions, has been spreading largely in men who have sex with men outside the countries where it is endemic.

- There are vaccines and treatments available for monkeypox, although they are in limited supply.

- Some global health experts said WHO may be have been hesitant to make a declaration because its January 2020 declaration that the new coronavirus represented a public health emergency was largely met with skepticism around the world.

- Gregg Gonsalves, an associate professor of epidemiology at Yale University who advised the committee but who is not a member of WHO, told Reuters by email on Saturday that he thought the decision was "misguided".

"It met all the criteria but they decided to punt on this momentous decision," he said.

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