Faced with the outbreak of monkeypox, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Saturday July 23 at a press conference that he was declaring a public health emergency of International (USppi) concerning this epidemic. This is the organisation’s highest level of alert, supposed to trigger a whole series of actions by member countries.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus clarified on this occasion that the epidemic already affects nearly 17,000 people in seventy-four countries and that the risk in the world was relatively moderate, except in Europe, where it is high. Again on Thursday, during a long meeting of the committee of experts which guides the WHO in its decisions and recommendations, Mr. Tedros had explained that there was still ” worried “ spread of the disease, although the rate of spread has slowed in some places.
“Monkey pox is out of control, there is no legal, scientific or health reason not to declare a public health emergency of international concern”tweeted Friday evening Lawrence Gostin, American professor of public health law and director of the WHO Center for Health Law. At a first meeting on June 23, the majority of experts had recommended to Dr Tedros not to pronounce the Usppi.
Gay or bisexual men mainly affected
Detected in early May, the unusual upsurge in monkeypox cases outside West and Central African countries, where the virus is endemic, has since spread across the globe, with Europe as the main center . First detected in humans in 1970, monkeypox is less dangerous and contagious than its cousin smallpox, eradicated in 1980. In most cases, sufferers are men who have sex with men, relatively young, and living mainly in cities, according to the WHO.
Also listen Monkey pox: towards a new health crisis?
A study published Thursday in the scientific journal New England Journal of Medicinethe largest on the subject and based on data from sixteen different countries, confirms that the vast majority of recent cases (95%) were transmitted through sexual contact and that 98% of those affected were gay men or bisexual.
“This mode of transmission represents both an opportunity to implement targeted public health interventions, and a challenge, because in some countries the affected communities face discrimination that threatens their lives”noted Mr. Tedros. “There is a real concern that men who have sex with men could be stigmatized or blamed for the spike in cases, making it much harder to trace and stop”he warned.
If the reason for not declaring a Usppi “Because it’s restricted to the community of men who have sex with men, it’s a mistake and it’s outrageous”tweeted Professor Gostin.
The WHO recommends vaccinating those most at risk as well as health workers likely to be confronted with the disease. On Friday, the European Medicines Agency said it approved the use of a human smallpox vaccine to expand its use against the spread of monkeypox. This vaccine is in fact already used for this purpose in several countries, including France. The Imvanex vaccine, from Danish company Bavarian Nordic, has been approved in the EU since 2013 for the prevention of smallpox. In New York, thousands of people have already been vaccinated with the Jynneos vaccine.