According to the international health body, there became a need to declare monkeypox a ‘public health emergency of international concern’ after outbreaks were recorded in more than 70 countries.
However, the WHO has called for calm, saying that labeling monkeypox a “public health emergency of international concern” is a call for a global response. The international body added that the call would help unlock global funding and efforts to collaborate on the provision of vaccines and treatments.
The WHO also advised governments to invest in creating awareness, especially among public health workers, to take proactive measures. It says that this will also enable the medical workers to educate members of the public on protective measures to tackle infection and control the spread of monkeypox.
Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, made the decision to issue the declaration despite a lack of consensus among experts serving on the UN health agency’s emergency committee. It was the first time the chief of the UN health agency had taken such an action.
Announcing his decision to declare the health emergency during a media briefing in Geneva, Tedros confirmed that the committee had failed to reach a consensus, with nine members against and six in favour of the declaration.
“We have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission about which we understand too little and which meets the criteria in the international health regulations,” Tedros said.
“I know this has not been an easy or straightforward process and that there are divergent views among the members” of the committee, he added.
He stated that there were more than 16,000 reported cases from 75 countries and territories, resulting in five deaths. He said he believes his decision is a step in the right direction and would help rally for early measures to curtail the spread.
A global emergency is the WHO’s highest level of alert, but the designation does not necessarily mean a disease is particularly transmissible or lethal.
WHO’s emergency chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, said the director-general made the decision to put monkeypox in that category to ensure the global community takes the current outbreak seriously.
Monkeypox has been established in parts of Central and West Africa for decades, but it was not known to spark large outbreaks beyond the continent or to spread widely among people until May, when authorities detected dozens of epidemics in Europe, and North America, and elsewhere.
In Africa, monkeypox mainly spreads to people by infected wild animals like rodents in limited outbreaks that typically have not crossed borders. In Europe, North America, and elsewhere, however, monkeypox is spreading among people with no links to animals or recent travel to Africa.
Lawrence Gostin, director of the WHO Center on Global Health Law, told Al Jazeera there has been “an exponential rise in monkeypox cases in five WHO regions of the world.”
“There should be contact tracing … widespread testing and a strategic deployment of vaccines to try and nip this in the bud. But the window for containment of monkeypox is rapidly closing and we fear that this could become endemic in Europe, North America and other parts of the world over the next months,” Gostin told Al Jazeera.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA and NEWS AGENCIES