WHO: 'Monkeypox Will Not Be A Pandemic'

By Rachel Morris | Sunday, 26 June 2022 16:45
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The World Health Organization said the worsening monkeypox surge in more than 50 countries should be closely observed but does not warrant being declared a global health emergency.

In a statement Saturday, a WHO emergency committee said many parts of the outbreak were “unusual” and admitted that monkeypox, which is endemic in some African countries, has been ignored for years.

“While a few members expressed differing views, the committee resolved by consensus to advise the WHO director-general that at this stage the outbreak should be determined to not constitute” a global health emergency, WHO said in a statement.

WHO still pointed to the “emergency nature” of the outbreak and said controlling its spread requires an "intense" response.

The committee said the spread should be “closely monitored and reviewed after a few weeks." However, it would recommend a re-evaluation if certain new developments emerge — such as cases among sex workers, spread to other countries or within countries that have already had cases, increased severity of cases, or an increased rate of outbreak.

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WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus called the emergency committee to assemble on Thursday after expressing concern about the epidemic of monkeypox in countries that haven't previously reported the disease.

“What makes the current outbreak especially concerning is the rapid, continuing spread into new countries and regions and the risk of further, sustained transmission into vulnerable populations including people that are immunocompromised, pregnant women and children,” the WHO chief said.

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Monkeypox has caused people to suffer for decades in central and west Africa, but until last month, the disease had not been known to cause substantial outbreaks in multiple countries at the same time and involving people with no travel links to the continent.

Declaring a global health emergency means that a health crisis is an “extraordinary” event requiring a globally managed response and that disease is at high risk of spilling across borders. WHO previously made similar declarations for diseases including COVID-19, Ebola in Congo and West Africa, Zika in Brazil, and the struggle to wipe out polio.

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The emergency declaration mainly serves as a petition to pull more global resources and attention to an outbreak. Past announcements have had a mixed impact, given that WHO is largely powerless when trying to convince countries to act.

WHO said this week it has confirmed more than 3,200 monkeypox infections in about 40 countries that haven’t previously reported the disease. The vast majority of cases are in men who are gay, bisexual, or have sex with other men, and more than 80% of the cases are in Europe.

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