WHO discusses response to monkeypox

LONDON – The World Health Organization convened its emergency committee on Thursday to assess whether the monkeypox outbreak justified the declaration of a global emergency. But some experts say WHO’s decision to act only after the disease spreads to the West could root the grotesque inequities that arose between rich and poor countries during the coronavirus pandemic.

Declaring monkeypox a global emergency would mean that the UN health agency sees the outbreak as an “extraordinary event” and that the disease is at risk of spreading across even more borders, possibly requiring a global response. It would also give monkeypox the same distinction as the covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing effort to eradicate polio.

WHO said it does not expect to announce any decisions made by its emergency committee earlier today.

Many scientists doubt that such a statement would help curb the epidemic, as the developed countries recording the most recent cases are already moving swiftly to shut it down.

Earlier this month, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the recent monkeypox epidemic identified in more than 40 countries, mainly in Europe, as “unusual and worrying”. Monkeypox has sickened people for decades in Central and West Africa, where one version of the disease kills up to 10 percent of infected people. The version of the disease seen in Europe and elsewhere usually has a mortality rate of less than 1%, and no deaths have been reported outside of Africa so far.

“If WHO were really concerned about the spread of monkeypox, they could have convened its emergency committee years ago when it resurfaced in Nigeria in 2017 and no one knew why we suddenly had hundreds of cases,” said Oyewale Tomori. a Nigerian virologist who sits on several WHO Advisory Groups. “It’s a bit curious that WHO only called their experts when the disease broke out in white countries,” he said.

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Until last month, monkeypox had not caused any major outbreaks outside of Africa. Scientists have not found any mutations in the virus to suggest it is more transmissible, and a leading WHO consultant said last month that the rise in cases in Europe was likely linked to sexual activity between gay and bisexual men in two raves. in Spain and Belgium.

To date, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed more than 3,300 cases of monkeypox in 42 countries where the virus has not typically been seen. More than 80% of cases are found in Europe. Meanwhile, Africa has already seen more than 1,400 cases this year, including 62 deaths.

David Fidler, a global health researcher at the Council on Foreign Relations, said WHO’s newfound focus on monkeypox amid its spread beyond Africa could inadvertently widen the gap between rich and poor countries seen during the covid. -19.

“There may be legitimate reasons why the WHO only raised the alarm when monkeypox has spread to rich countries, but in poor countries it seems like a double standard,” Fidler said. He said the global community was still struggling to ensure that the world’s poor were vaccinated against the coronavirus and that it was unclear whether Africans also wanted monkeypox vaccines, given conflicting priorities such as malaria and cancer. HIV.

photo FILE – This 2003 electron microscope image made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows mature monkeypox virions of oval shape, left and spherical immature virions, right, obtained from a human skin sample associated with the outbreak prairie dog of 2003. The World Health Organization will convene an emergency committee of experts to determine whether the expanding monkeypox outbreak that has mysteriously spread outside its usual areas should be considered an emergency. international public health. (Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regner / CDC via AP, file)

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