A new global health crisis? The World Health Organization (WHO) triggered the maximum alert on monkeypox on Saturday July 23. While the disease is endemic on the African continent, the cases recorded since the beginning of May are concentrated more in Europe and particularly affect men who have sex with men. Franceinfo answers five questions on this alarm signal launched by the WHO.
1Who decides on the alert level?
It is the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) who is in charge of determining whether a event constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (USPPI). He makes a decision “on the basis of the information it receives” and “with regard to the criteria and the procedure set out”, in accordance with the International Health Regulations. He must also “seek the views of the Emergency Committee”, composed of experts chosen by him “based on the skills and experience required for a particular session”.
The current head of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has thus decided to raise the highest level of alert on monkeypox. And this, despite the divided opinions of the committee of experts. NOTnine experts spoke out against a USPPI, against six others in favor of such a measure.
2What does the WHO high alert mean?
According to the International Health Regulations, this maximum alert corresponds to “an extraordinary event which is determined […] that it constitutes a risk to public health in other States because of the risk of international spread of disease; and that it may require coordinated international action.” This is only the seventh time that the WHO has used this level of alert.
Concretely, thehe Public Health Emergency of International Concern (USPPI) qualification is used in situations “serious, sudden, unusual or unexpected”.
3What is the situation in the world?
Since early May, the disease has struck more than 16,836 people in 74 countries, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dashboard, as of July 22. In France, 1,567 cases have been reported. In the United Kingdom: 2,208, in Spain: 3,125. Europe is therefore largely affected by the disease, whereas usually, monkeypox is endemic only on the African continent. Since 1970, cases have been concentrated in eleven African countries.
“Anyone who has close physical contact with a person showing symptoms of monkeypox, or with an infected animal, is at high risk of infection”according WHO website. However, thee Dr Tedros pointed out that currently, “This outbreak is concentrated among men who have sex with men, and particularly those with multiple partners, which means it can be stopped with the right strategies in the right group”. A statement in which he also vigorously warned against any stigmatization of the sick. “Stigma and discrimination can be as dangerous as any virus”he hammered.
4What measures are in place to fight the disease?
After the alert, the action. “A coordinated, international response is essential to halt the spread of monkeypox, White House Pandemic Office Coordinator Raj Panjabi said in a statement. We must protect the groups most at risk of contracting the disease, and fight against the epidemic. The WHO thus recommends vaccinating the people most at risk as well as health personnel likely to be confronted with the disease. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) also approved, on Friday, the use of a vaccine against human smallpox to counter the spread of monkeypox.
To protect yourself and others, if you are in physical contact with a person with monkeypox, the WHO website recommends certain actions to take: “Encourage the infected person to self-isolate and, if possible, to cover all skin lesions (for example, by wearing clothing over the affected parts)”, “lhave the infected person’s clothes, towels, linens and kitchen utensils with hot water and detergent”, “dispose of contaminated waste (eg, dressings) appropriately”.