Why monkeypox has become a global health emergency

In June 2022, the emergency committee of the World Health Organization (WHO) had not reached a consensus to make monkeypox, or monkeypox, a public health emergency of international concern (USppi).

A month later, in July 2022, the committee also failed to reach a consensus. However, the organization’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, decided on Saturday July 23 to assign the disease this highest level of alert. “At the first meeting, there were 3,040 reported cases from 47 countries. The epidemic has continued to progress and we are at more than 16,000 reported cases, in 74 countries, including five deaths “, justified the boss of the UN agency.

What will this change?

This is the seventh time since 2007 that the WHO has activated this system set up following the SARS epidemic of 2003, which highlighted the need for better international coordination. The previous statement, made on January 30, 2020 obviously concerned the SARS-CoV2 virus, responsible for Covid-19.

According to the International Health Regulations, the Usppi declaration theoretically obliges states to strengthen surveillance and actions against the disease, as well as to notify the WHO of the risks on their territory.

However, these provisions are considered insufficient. The WHO hopes to have a new pandemic agreement in May 2024. On Friday July 22, 2022, the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (OIN), responsible for negotiating this agreement, “decided, by consensus, that it will be legally binding”.

Can monkeypox be compared to HIV?

In its mode of transmission outside the endemic countries of Africa (where it is transmitted by the consumption of infected animals and secondarily by contact with patients), the epidemic mainly affects men who have sex with other men. The fear of an HIV-like scenario – which was also introduced into humans following the consumption of bushmeat – is understandable but irrelevant.

Unlike HIV, which persists in the body and can be transmitted by asymptomatic people, monkeypox is only transmitted through contact with the lesions (or not objects that have been in contact with these lesions) which heal after three weeks. The dynamics of the epidemic are totally different.

Read also: TESTIMONIALS. “Sick with monkey pox is the worst suffering I have ever known”

If it’s not so dramatic, why this alert?

In Central and West Africa, this disease, neglected for too long, causes more deaths (the virus strain from Central Africa is more aggressive). The consequences of the disease on children and pregnant women are much more serious than on adults.

Preventing it from reaching the general population more widely is a priority. Epidemiologists also fear that the disease will spread to new local species (especially rodents), which would make its eradication more complicated.

Can the epidemic be quickly contained?

That the epidemic affects more particularly an identified group, with well-structured associations broken down in the fight against infections (“thanks” to the experience of HIV) should facilitate the control of the disease.

At least in countries that do not repress homosexuality. “Stigma and discrimination can be as dangerous as any virus,” warned Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

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