World Health Network declares the Monkeypox outbreak to be a pandemic

As the World Health Organization (WHO) prepares to meet, the World Health Network released a press release describing the current monkeypox epidemic as a pandemic and urges “immediate and effective action” by the national and global public health authorities.1.2

As of June 22, there were 3308 confirmed cases of monkeypox in 42 countries.3

“There is no justification for waiting for the monkeypox pandemic to grow any further,” World Health Network co-founder Yaneer Bar-Yam, PhD, president of the New England Complex System Institute, said in a news release.1 “By taking immediate action, we can control the epidemic with minimal effort and prevent the consequences from worsening.”

“The actions needed now require only clear public disclosure of symptoms, widely available testing and contact tracing with very few quarantines. Any delay only makes the effort more difficult and the consequences more severe, ”Bar-Yam added.

The WHN announcement on June 22 came the day before a WHO meeting scheduled to determine the designation of a monkeypox outbreak. Although the organization began using the term “pandemic” to describe the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020, the organization’s highest alert level is typically a “public health emergency of international concern.”4

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare viral disease resulting from infection with the monkeypox virus, part of the same virus family as smallpox.4 According to the CDC, symptoms are similar to smallpox but generally milder and the disease is “rarely fatal.” Symptoms may include fever, headache, back and muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion, and a rash that looks like pimples or blisters on the face, mouth, hands, feet, chest, or genitals.5

Monkeypox is spread from person to person through direct contact with an infectious rash or body fluids; respiratory secretions during “prolonged face-to-face contact” or intimate physical contact; or touching objects, such as clothing, that had previously been in contact with an infectious rash or body fluids.6

On May 25, WHO released public health advice for gays, bisexuals and other men who have sex with men (MSM)7; although monkeypox is not limited to this community, most of the earliest cases have been identified within the community.2.7 The council also noted that transgender and gender-diverse individuals “may also be more vulnerable in the context of the current epidemic.”7

Although there are no specific vaccines for monkeypox, 2 smallpox vaccines, Jynneos and ACAM2000, can be given as pre-exposure prophylaxis against the disease.8 Jynneos is a live non-replicating virus administered via 2 subcutaneous injections 4 weeks apart. ACAM2000 is a live Vaccination virus inoculated by pricking the skin surface.8

No specific treatments are currently available for monkeypox. If infected, patients who are more likely to become seriously ill, such as those who are immunocompromised, may receive antiviral drugs such as tecovirimat (Tpoxx).9

Global response

Scientists around the world have criticized the WHO’s response, or lack thereof, including leading scientists in Africa, who point out that monkeypox has been a regional crisis for years.

“When a disease affects developing countries, it is (apparently) not an emergency,” said Emmanuel Nakoune, interim director of the Institut Pasteur in Bangui, Central African Republic. “It becomes an emergency only when developed countries are hit.” Nakoune is currently conducting a trial of a treatment for monkeypox.4

According to Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, acting director of the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of monkeypox and related deaths across the continent have already reached “emergency levels”.4

While many experts agree that the current monkeypox outbreak meets WHO criteria for being called an emergency, the agency is, according to reports, “in a precarious position after COVID.[-19]. “4 Many critics of the WHO response believe that a pandemic declaration, rather than an emergency declaration, in January 2020 may have led governments to act sooner.

“WHO must urgently declare its Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC),” said Eric Feigl-Ding, PhD, epidemiologist, health economist and co-founder of WHN. “The lessons of not declaring a PHEIC immediately in early January 2020 should be remembered as a history lesson of what acting late on an epidemic can mean for the world.”1

References

  1. World Health Network declares monkeypox a pandemic – press release. Press release. World Health Network. June 22, 2022. Accessed June 23, 2022. https://www.worldhealthnetwork.global/monkeypoxpressrelease
  2. Declaration of monkeypox a global pandemic. World Health Network. Published June 22, 2022. Accessed June 23, 2022. https://www.worldhealthnetwork.global/monkeypoxdeclaration
  3. 2022 global map and case count. CENTER FOR DISEASE PREVENTION AND CONTROL. Updated June 22, 2022. Accessed June 23, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/response/2022/world-map.html
  4. Rigby J. WHO considers decision on monkeypox “emergency”, Africa says it is long overdue. Reuters. Published June 23, 2022. Updated June 23, 2022. Accessed June 23, 2022. https://www.migration.com/world/africa/monkeypox-emergency-decision-due-who-sparks-african-criticism-2022- 23-06 /
  5. Signs and symptoms. CENTER FOR DISEASE PREVENTION AND CONTROL. Reviewed June 17, 2022. Accessed June 23, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/symptoms.html
  6. How it spreads. CENTER FOR DISEASE PREVENTION AND CONTROL. Reviewed June 17, 2022. Accessed June 23, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/transmission.html
  7. Monkeypox: Public health tips for gays, bisexuals, and other men who have sex with men. World Health Organization. Published May 25, 2022. Accessed June 23, 2022. https://www.who.int/news/item/25-05-2022-monkeypox–public-health-advice-for-gay–bisexual-and- other-men-having-sex-with-men
  8. Vaccine Guide. CENTER FOR DISEASE PREVENTION AND CONTROL. Reviewed June 2, 2022. Accessed June 23, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/clinicians/smallpox-vaccine.html
  9. Treatment. CENTER FOR DISEASE PREVENTION AND CONTROL. Reviewed June 17, 2022. Accessed June 23, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/treatment.html

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