The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency following a second emergency meeting that aimed to determine the potential of the virus to become a global threat.
Reports are that the declaration was issued despite the failure of the WHO emergency committee to meet a consensus on the matter.
Marking monkeypox as a public health emergency of international concern allows the WHO to enhance the coordination of the situation and the distribution of necessary resources and information to desired nations.
WHO Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said this was deemed a necessary move as the outbreak threatens a rapid, international spread.
“Monkeypox is moderate globally and in regions except the European Region where we assess the risk is high. 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 models of transmission about which we understand too little, and which meets the criteria in the international health regulations. Of All these reasons I have decided that the global monkeypox outbreak presents a public health emergency of international concern”, he said.
“Although I’m declaring a public health emergency of international concern, for the moment this is an outbreak that’s concentrated among men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners”, Dr. Tedros added.
Though he has warned that stigma and discrimination can be as harmful as any virus, Dr. Tedros has issued a recommendation to the gay and bisexual community which he described as “men who have sex with men”, urging that they do their part to stop the spread of the virus.
In a recent update, Dr Tedros revealed that the WHO is now recommending that men within the LGBTQ community who participate in homosexual, penetrative sex, should limit the number of sexual partners they have to help slow the spread of the virus.
“This is an outbreak that can be stopped if countries, communities and individuals inform themselves, take the risk seriously and take the steps needed to stop transmission and protect vulnerable groups. The best way to do this is to reduce the risk of exposure, that means making safe choices for yourself and others. For men who have sex with men, this includes for the moment reducing your number of sexual partners, reconsidering sex with new partners and exchanging contact details with any new partners to enable follow-up if needed,” he said.
Over 18,000 monkeypox cases have been reported in 78 countries across the globe. While approximately 99 percent of the reported cases are men, about 95 percent of the affected men are said to have recently engaged in sex with another man.
According to WHO data, about 10 percent of monkeypox patients have required hospitalisation and about 5 have died in recent months.