The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Saturday declared monkeypox a global health emergency.
The latest development, The Telegraph UK reports, supersedes the earlier decision of the global health panel that considered the impact of the virus not significant enough to be so declared.
But on Saturday, the WHO’s Director General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, overruled the global health organisation’s panel of advisers to make the designation.
As of June 26, 2022, when the global cases of monkeypox reported were 3,040 infections from 47 countries, the committee’s report advised WHO that the monkeypox outbreak does not constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), which is the highest level of alert WHO can issue.
The designation of a “public health emergency of international concern” is currently only being used by the WHO for coronavirus and polio.
The latest decision, therefore, signals a possible greater global response to the outbreak which has spread to at least 75 countries within the last few weeks.
“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”, he told reporters.
Mr Ghebreyesus, however, said it was still mostly of concern to homosexual men.
He was quoted to have said; “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.
“That means that this is an outbreak that can be stopped with the right strategies in the right groups.”
The decision may, therefore, pave the way for better international coordination and collaboration in terms of responses through vaccines and research, and an increase in funding for countries battling the outbreak, The Telegraph Uk reports.
The 15-member International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee was said to have met during the week with members holding divergent positions on the declaration.
While six members voted in favour of the decision, nine had reportedly voted against. But the director general of the global body overruled the decision of the panel by making the declaration.
But Mr Ghebreyesus had during the week assured that regardless of the committee’s recommendation, WHO would continue to do everything to support countries to stop transmission and save lives.
Speaking on the committee’s decision in June, the Director General said: “The emergency committee shared serious concerns about the scale and speed of the current outbreak, noted many unknown gaps in current data and prepared a consensus report that reflects differing views amongst the committee.
“They advised me that at this moment the event does not constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), which is the highest level of alert WHO can issue but recognised that the convening of the committee itself reflects the increasing concern about the international spread of monkeypox.”
The Emergency Committee had also established that the current multi-country outbreak is unusual due to its circulation in non-endemic countries, and the fact that the majority of cases were confirmed in gay men who were not previously immunised against smallpox.
Some members of the committee suggested that “given the low level of population immunity against pox virus infection, there is a risk of further, sustained transmission into the wider population that should not be overlooked.”
In its last situation report, WHO had said this is the first time that local transmission of monkeypox has been reported in new countries without links to countries that have previously reported monkeypox.
As of the time of its publication, the log of cumulative confirmed monkeypox cases reported to WHO shows that between 1 January to 4 July 2022, the European Region topped the infection chart, followed by the Region of the Americas, African Region, Western Pacific Region and the Eastern Mediterranean Region.
A total of about 2,200 people in the United Kingdom and tens of thousands more around the world are said to have been infected.
The United States of America, according to The Telegraph UK, had announced on Friday that it had discovered the first cases of the virus in children.
The two cases were said to be unrelated and “were likely the result of household transmission,” the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.