Check-up: The WHO Declared Monkeypox A Public Health Emergency. What Does This Mean? - The Scene

Is Monkeypox poised to become the next COVID-19? Here’s what WHO is saying.

The World Health Organization has declared the ongoing and escalating monkeypox outbreak a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” (PHEIC).

READ ALSO: FAQs: Everything You Need To Know About Monkeypox

It said the vast majority of reported cases are currently in the WHO European Region. This region is now partnering with countries and communities to urgently address the outbreak.

The International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee recently met regarding the multicountry outbreak of monkeypox. At the press conference that followed, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus clarified what the PHEIC means for monkeypox.

Here’s what you need to know.

What is a PHEIC?

The IHR in 2005 defined the PHEIC as “an extraordinary event that is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response.”

This definition implies a situation that is serious, sudden, unusual, or unexpected. At the same time, it carries implications for public health beyond the affected state’s national border and may require immediate international action.

The next most recent PHEIC declaration was COVID-19 on January 30, 2020.

Prior to this, the WHO also declared PHEIC for the H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009, Ebola from 2013 to 2015 and again from 2018 to 2020, poliomyelitis in 2014, and Zika in 2016.

WHO’s assessment

The WHO Director-General said the IHR Emergency Committee previously resolved during its June meeting that monkeypox was not a PHEIC.

At the time, the WHO received reports of 3,040 monkeypox cases from 47 countries.

“Since then, the outbreak has continued to grow. And there are now more than 16,000 reported cases from 75 countries and territories and five deaths. In light of the evolving outbreak, I reconvened the committee…to review the latest data and advise me accordingly,” Ghebreyesus said.

Although the committee was unable to reach a consensus, the WHO Director-General decided the global monkeypox outbreak represents a PHEIC.

This decision was based on information provided by countries, the criteria for declaring a PHEIC, the advice of the Emergency Committee, scientific principles, and the risk to human health.

WHO assessed that the risk of monkeypox is high in the European region and moderate everywhere else.

“There is also a clear risk of further international spread. Although the risk of interference with international traffic remains low for the moment. So 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 [IHR],” Ghebreyesus said.

He has since made a set of recommendations for four groups of countries.

These are those who have not yet reported a case of monkeypox ever or for over 21 days, those with recently imported cases and are experiencing human-to-human transmission, those with animal-to-human transmission, and those with manufacturing capacity for diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics.

Here are the full recommendations.

Banner Photo by Lucas Vasques on Unsplash

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