WHO raises its highest level of alert

Faced with the monkeypox outbreak, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), announced on Saturday July 23 at a press conference that he was declaring an emergency of public health of international scope (Usppi) concerning this epidemic. This is only the seventh time that the WHO has used this level of alert, the highest in the organization, which is supposed to trigger a whole series of actions by member countries.

Mr Tedros explained that the committee of experts had failed to reach a consensus, remaining divided on the need to trigger the highest level of alert. In the end, it is up to the general manager to decide. The latter specified that the epidemic already affects nearly 17,000 people in seventy-four countries and that the risk in the world was relatively moderate, except in Europe, where it is high.

Read also: Monkey pox: how is it transmitted, what are the symptoms?

“It’s a call to action, but it’s not the first”, underlined Mike Ryan, the person in charge of the emergency situations of the WHO, who says he hopes that this will lead to a collective action against the disease. The qualification “public health emergency of international concern” is used in situations “serious, sudden, unusual or unexpected”. It is defined by the WHO as a “extraordinary event” the propagation of which constitutes a “risk to public health in other states” and which may require “coordinated international action”.

At a first meeting on June 23, the majority of experts on the emergency committee had recommended to Dr Tedros not to pronounce Usppi. Again on Thursday, during a long meeting of the committee of experts which guides the WHO in its decisions and recommendations, Mr. Tedros had explained that there was still ” worried “ spread of the disease, although the rate of spread has slowed in some places.

Read the interview: Article reserved for our subscribers Monkeypox: “If we let messages stigmatizing homosexuals spread, they will have public health consequences”

Gay or bisexual men mainly affected

Detected in early May, the unusual upsurge in monkeypox cases outside West and Central African countries, where the virus is endemic, has since spread across the globe, with Europe as the main center . First detected in humans in 1970, monkeypox is less dangerous and contagious than its cousin smallpox, eradicated in 1980.

Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease but, outside endemic areas, it affects, with rare exceptions, relatively young men who have sex with men, living mainly in cities, according to the WHO. If the health authorities have reported a drop in the rate of contagion, the number of cases is increasing rapidly.

“Monkey pox is out of control, there is no legal, scientific or health reason not to declare a public health emergency of international concern”had tweeted on Friday evening Lawrence GostinAmerican professor of public health law and director of the WHO Center for Health Law.

Also listen Monkey pox: towards a new health crisis?

Vaccination recommended by the WHO

A study published Thursday in the scientific journal New England Journal of Medicinethe largest on the subject and based on data from sixteen different countries, confirms that the vast majority of recent cases (95%) were transmitted through sexual contact and that 98% of those affected were gay men or bisexual.

“This mode of transmission represents both an opportunity to implement targeted public health interventions, and a challenge, because in some countries the affected communities face discrimination that threatens their lives”noted Mr. Tedros on Thursday. “There is a real concern that men who have sex with men could be stigmatized or blamed for the spike in cases, making it much harder to trace and stop”he warned.

The WHO recommends vaccinating those most at risk as well as health workers likely to be confronted with the disease. On Friday, the European Medicines Agency said it approved the use of a human smallpox vaccine to expand its use against the spread of monkeypox. This vaccine is in fact already used for this purpose in several countries, including France. The Imvanex vaccine, from Danish company Bavarian Nordic, has been approved in the EU since 2013 for the prevention of smallpox. In New York, thousands of people have already been vaccinated with the Jynneos vaccine.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers Monkey pox: infectiologists welcome the extension of preventive vaccination to the most exposed groups

The World with AFP

Leave a Comment