The World Health Organization has declared the monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency. The announcement was made after a WHO panel of experts gathered to discuss the epidemic last Thursday. The decision was passed after WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus voted in favor, breaking a deadlock.

  • The health agency stated that the monkeypox outbreak is an extraordinary situation that requires its highest level of concern, on par with COVID-19, polio, the 2014 Ebola outbreak, and the Zika virus in 2016.
  • The director of the White House pandemic preparedness office, Raj Panjabi, signaled support for the decision, emphasizing that a “coordinated, international response is essential.”
  • With this declaration, WHO aims to promote a globally coordinated response to the outbreak and unlock resources for global cooperation on vaccines and treatments.

Monkeypox 101: Monkeypox, which has long been an endemic disease in sub-Saharan Africa, has recently become prevalent in previously unaffected regions. The disease causes a rash on the bodies of infected people. However, it is not as fatal or contagious as smallpox, its most similar comparable.

  • Since the disease began spreading outside of Africa, the virus has infected more than 16,000 people in over 70 countries.
  • According to WHO, 99% of cases outside of Africa are men, and 98% of patients are men who have sex with other men, particularly those with multiple sexual partners.
  • Other ways to contract the disease include skin-to-skin contact or contact with bedding and clothing that have been contaminated.
  • Monkeypox is curable in more than 99% of patients, and vaccinations and antivirals are already available for prevention and treatment. However, experts warn that the current supply of vaccines is insufficient. Also, some critics say that the US is repeating similar mistakes in its response to monkeypox as it did in the early days of COVID-19.

Contagions to Watch Out For: Polio and the coronavirus pandemic were the only outbreaks deemed public health emergencies of global concern before monkeypox.

  • Polio: Health authorities in New York have recently confirmed the first polio case in the US in over a decade. The individual who contracted the virus was recorded as a Rockland County, New York resident. The patient showed severe symptoms, including paralysis, and was admitted to the hospital. Officials think that the infected person contracted the strain called Sabin Type 2 from someone who had received the oral polio vaccine. Rockland County Executive Ed Day stated that this individual is not contagious anymore.
  • COVID-19: WHO declared COVID-19 a global health emergency nearly two and a half years ago. The virus has infected almost 571 million people worldwide so far, and its new variant called BA.5, which shows high numbers of re-infection and hospitalization, emerged just a few weeks ago. Around 400 Americans are still dying from coronavirus on average every day.
  • Monkeypox: The first monkeypox case in the US was confirmed in Massachusetts in May. The virus then spread to multiple regions of the country. Several thousand monkeypox cases have been confirmed in the US so far. The disease is believed to be transmitted through sexual intercourse mainly.
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