United Nations, July 24: The World Health Organization on Sunday called on countries in South – East Asia Region to strengthen surveillance and public health measures for monkeypox, with the disease being declared a public health emergency of international concern.
“Monkeypox spreading rapidly & to countries that haven’t seen it before. Cases concentrated among men who have sex with men. Our measures should be sensitive, devoid of stigma or discrimination,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region.
The World Health Organisation said the expanding monkeypox outbreak in more than 70 countries is an “extraordinary” situation that now qualifies as a global emergency, a declaration Saturday that could spur further investment in treating the once-rare disease and worsen the scramble for scarce vaccines.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the decision to issue the declaration despite a lack of consensus among members of WHO’s emergency committee. It was the first time the chief of the U.N. health agency has taken such an action.
WHO declares monkeypox a global emergency
“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.
Although monkeypox has been established in parts of central and west Africa for decades, it was not known to spark large outbreaks beyond the continent or to spread widely among people until May, when authorities detected dozens of epidemics in Europe, North America and elsewhere.
Declaring a global emergency means the monkeypox outbreak is an “extraordinary event” that could spill over into more countries and requires a coordinated global response.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 16,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in 74 countries since about May. To date, monkeypox deaths have only been reported in Africa, where a more dangerous version of the virus is spreading, mainly in Nigeria and Congo.