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WHO Emergency Committee decides on monkeypox outbreak – Health and Lifestyle News – Report by AFR

A World Health Organization panel of experts met Thursday to decide whether the monkeypox outbreak constitutes a global health emergency.

The result of the confidential meeting will be published on Friday at the earliest, the WHO said.

Outside West and Central African countries, where the disease has long been endemic, a surge in monkeypox cases has been recorded since May. Most of the new cases were in western Europe.

More than 3,200 confirmed cases and one death have been reported to the WHO from a total of 48 countries this year, said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the beginning of the meeting.

Tedros announced on June 14 that he would convene an emergency committee to assess whether the outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) — the highest alert the UN health agency can raise.

In addition to providing a PHEIC assessment, committee members should offer advice to WHO and its Member States on how to better prevent the spread of the disease and manage their response.

– transmission fears –

Tedros said at Thursday’s meeting that all countries must strengthen their capacity to prevent further transmission of monkeypox through surveillance, contact tracing and isolation of infected patients.

“The outbreak in newly affected countries continues to primarily affect men who have sex with men and have recently reported sex with new or multiple partners,” he said via video link from the Commonwealth Summit in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

“Person-to-person transmission is ongoing and likely underestimated.”

He said nearly 1,500 suspected cases of monkeypox and about 70 deaths were reported in Central Africa this year, in addition to the more than 3,200 confirmed cases.

The Emergency Committee will provide Tedros with a PHEIC recommendation and human health risk assessment, risk of international spread and risk of disruption to international traffic.

Tedros then makes the final decision on whether a PHEIC should be declared based on his advice.

There have been six PHEIC statements since 2009, the last for Covid-19 in 2020 – although the sluggish global response to the alarm bell at WHO’s Geneva headquarters is still raging.

A PHEIC was declared following a third Emergency Committee meeting on January 30th. But it wasn’t until after March 11, when Tedros called the rapidly worsening situation a pandemic, that many countries seemed to realize the danger.

– problems with testing –

With the number of cases, “it’s a bit difficult to see how much of that is the tip of the iceberg,” said Philippe Duneton, head of agency Unitaid, which invests in ways to prevent, diagnose and treat disease.

“There are no easy-to-use tests to detect this. This is essentially done at the clinical level. So it’s important to have tests that are done earlier and that allow cases to be detected, especially in case contacts,” he told AFP.

Normal initial symptoms of monkeypox include a high fever, swollen lymph nodes, and a blistering, chickenpox-like rash.

The WHO’s 16-member Monkeypox Emergency Committee is chaired by Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele of the Democratic Republic of Congo, former director of WHO’s Division of Vaccines and Immunization.

Co-President is Nicola Low, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health Medicine at the University of Bern.

The other 14 members come from institutions in Brazil, Great Britain, Japan, Morocco, Nigeria, Russia, Senegal, Switzerland, Thailand and the United States.

Eight advisors from Canada, DR Congo, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States also attended Thursday’s hybrid meeting.

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