WHO: ‘We believe Monkeypox outbreak can be stopped’
More than 15000 cases, over two thirds reported in the WHO European Region.
— WHO/Europe (@WHO_Europe) July 24, 2022
A public health emergency
On Saturday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the spread of the virus to be a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), the organization’s highest level of alert. “Through this, we hope to enhance coordination, cooperation of countries and all stakeholders, as well as global solidarity,” Dr Lewis said.
WHO assessed the risk posed to public health by Monkeypox in the European region as high, but at the global level as moderate.
With “other regions not at the moment as severely affected”, declaring a PHEIC was necessary “to ensure the outbreak was stopped as soon as possible”.
This year, there have been more than 16,000 confirmed cases of monkeypox in more than 75 countries. Dr Lewis said the real number was probably higher.
She pointed out that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, several thousand cases were suspected, but testing facilities are limited. “The global dashboard did not include suspected cases,” she said.
Some 81 children under the age of 17 were reported as having been infected globally, she added, with the majority of cases being among young men, with the median age being 37.
‘Stigma as dangerous as virus’
First identified in monkeys, the virus is transmitted chiefly through close contact with an infected person (you can read our detailed explainer on the disease, here).
Until this year, the virus which causes Monkeypox has rarely spread outside Africa where it is endemic. But reports of a handful of cases in Britain in early May signalled that the outbreak had moved into Europe.
Dr. Lewis pointed out that stigma and discrimination must be avoided, as that would harm the response to the disease.
“At the moment the outbreak is still concentrated in groups of men who have sex with men in some countries, but that is not the case everywhere,” she said. “It is really important to appreciate also that stigma and discrimination can be very damaging and as dangerous as any virus itself,” she said.
Monkeypox could cause a range of signs and symptoms, including painful sores. Some people developed serious symptoms that need care in a health facility. Those at higher risk for severe disease or complications include pregnant women, children, and immunocompromised persons.