WHO is considering whether to declare Monkeypox a new epidemic


WHO is planning to meet in the next few hours to assess and deliberate about what needs to be done about the current Monkeypox surge globally.

The virus is not thought to be as transmissible as other airborne viruses, such as COVID-19. Monkeypox is mainly transmitted through close, direct contact. Those infected with the virus will often break out in lesions – directly touching these blisters is thought to be the main form of transmission.

However, it appears to be spreading more rapidly than ever before, and scientists suspect it may be transmitting through different routes, although this is still being researched.

On June 23, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee will meet to discuss this rapidly spreading virus, and whether it must be deemed a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

As of the last hour, the total number of monkeypox cases globally stands at 3,452 cases.
In the United Kingdom, the current number of confirmed cases stands at 793.
Among them, available data showed that 758 were males and only 5 were female while 30 were transgenders.
Among the males, 92% identified themselves as being gay and 5 percent as bisexuals.

Majority of the infections were found to be the result unprotected oral and anal sex and interestingly, almost 71 percent of the males and the transgenders had other STIs, with many having syphilis, gonorrhea and some even having HIV.

Cases of monkeypox infection were confirmed in England from 6 May 2022. The outbreak has mainly been in gay, bisexual, and men who have sex with men without documented history of travel to endemic countries. Further details on the epidemiology are available in the monkeypox technical briefing.

Up to 20 June 2022 there were 793 laboratory confirmed cases in the UK. Of these, 18 were in Scotland, 3 were in Northern Ireland, 6 were in Wales and 766 were in England.

Table 1: Number of laboratory confirmed cases by UK nation of residence, 6 May to 20 June 2022

Devolved administrationsConfirmed cases
Northern Ireland3

A high proportion of England cases were known to be London residents (80%, 498 of 624 with reported home address). For confirmed cases in the UK, where gender information was available, 758 (99%) confirmed cases were male, with 5 confirmed female cases. The median age of confirmed cases in the UK was 37 years (interquartile range 31-43).

The other key countries with a reported substantial rise of new monkeypox cases in the last 24 hours include:
-Spain 741 cases, an increase of 52 cases in the last 24 hours
-Germany 469 cases, an increase of 57 cases in the last 24 hours
-Portugal 305 cases, an increase of 8 cases in the last 24 hours
-France 277 cases, an increase of 94 cases in the last 24 hours
-Canada 201 cases, an increase of 33 cases in the last 24 hours
-United States 142 cases, an increase of 29 cases in the last 24 hours
The monkeypox disease is now found in 43 countries outside the African continent and Singapore is the first Asian country to report a single case of monkeypox involving a British national in the last few hours. 

In about 82 percent of all the global cases, the infected identified themselves as gay men who had contracted the disease via physical sexual contacts.
Despite the monkeypox having possibilities of being spread via airborne transmission, only in 13 reported cases was such a scenario possible and even then, we cannot confirm if it was via airborne transmission or simply exposure to materials or surfaces that were contaminated with the virus.

What Is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern?

A PHEIC is a formal declaration by the WHO. The WHO defines it as “an extraordinary event that may constitute a public health risk to other countries through international spread of disease and may require an international coordinated response.”

It is only ever considered when a disease becomes “serious, sudden, unusual or unexpected.”

If a disease is given PHEIC status, it requires an urgent response—the main purpose is to spur evidence-based action in preventing the risk to the wider population. Countries have a legal obligation to respond and implement measures if PHEIC is declared.

The purpose of a PHEIC is also to raise awareness to the public.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the United Nations that the “global outbreak of monkeypox is clearly unusual and concerning.” Ghebreyesus believes that international coordination is needed to prevent spread of the virus.

WHO Deputy Director for Emergency Response Ibrahima Socé Fall also told the UN that the virus is spreading more rapidly throughout Europe, while in other countries, the risk is considered moderate.




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