New York Daily News: By Jessica Schladebeck – Monkeypox is officially an emergency.
The World Health Organization has dubbed the quickly growing outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, the highest alert level issued by the agency.
It’s the first time the WHO has used that designation since it did so for COVID-19 in March 2020.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus issued the declaration on Saturday despite a lack of consensus among members on the emergency committee. It means the UN health agency leader sees the monkeypox outbreak as severe enough to warrant a coordinated global response in order to prevent it from reaching pandemic levels.
“In short, 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.
The move marks the first time a WHO chief has declared a global emergency without the full support of the agency and just the seventh time such a declaration has been made since 2009.
While the WHO warning does not impose restrictions or requirements on governments, it does serve as a global call to action, aimed at channeling resources and attention toward the issue at hand.
Monkeypox — a viral infection typically found in animals in central and western Africa — can spread in humans under the right conditions, but the latest outbreak is an “extraordinary event,” according to the WHO declaration. So far, infections have cropped up in more than 70 countries around the world with Europe facing the fiercest wave of infections so far.
Nations including the United States, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel and Nigeria have also reported cases.
New York City on Friday launched its first permanent monkeypox vaccine sites, in the Bronx and Staten Island.
“With cases rising, it’s clear that is a great need for more vaccine in New York City, and we are working with our federal partners to obtain more doses,” city Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan said.
On Friday, health officials confirmed the first two infections of children in the U.S. The first one is a toddler in California and the other an infant who is not a U.S. resident but was tested while in Washington, D.C., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Both children were receiving treatment and are described as being in good health. It’s not clear how they became infected.
In addition to the two pediatric cases, health officials said they were aware of at least eight women among the more than 2,800 US cases reported so far.
But the Who said that 99% of all the monkeypox cases beyond Africa were in men and of those cases, 98% involved men who have sex with men.
“Although I am declaring a public health emergency of international concern for the moment, this is an outbreak that is concentrated among men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners,” Tedros said. “That means that this is an outbreak that can be stopped with the right strategies.”
Globally, more than 15,000 cases have been reported since May and five deaths have so far been linked to the outbreak.
Yale professor Dr. Albert Ko says greater testing is needed to track the outbreak.
“The cases we are seeing are just the tip of the iceberg,” Ko said. “The window has probably closed for us to quickly stop the outbreaks in Europe and the U.S., but it’s not too late to stop monkeypox from causing huge damage to poorer countries without the resources to handle it.”