WHO considers smallpox to be a global health emergency

WHO considers smallpox to be a global health emergency

LONDON (AP) – As the World Health Organization convenes its emergency committee on Thursday to examine whether the spiral pox epidemic justifies a global emergency, some experts say the WHO decision to act only after of the disease in the West could consolidate the tragic disparities that arose between rich and poor countries during the coronavirus pandemic.

Declaring monkey pox a global emergency would mean that the United Nations Health Service considers the outbreak an “extraordinary event” and that the disease is in danger of spreading to even more frontiers. It would also give monkey pox the same distinction as the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing effort to eradicate polio.

Many scientists doubt that any such statement would help curb the epidemic, as developed countries with the most recent cases are already moving fast to end it.

Last week, WHO Director-General of the Center Antanom Gebregesus described the recent monkeypox epidemic in more than 40 countries, mainly in Europe, as “unusual and disturbing”. Monkey pox has plagued humans for decades in Central and West Africa, where one version of the disease kills up to 10% of humans. In the epidemic beyond Africa so far, no deaths have been reported.

“If the WHO was really concerned about the spread of monkey pox, it could have convened the emergency committee years ago, when it reappeared in Nigeria in 2017 and no one knew why we suddenly had hundreds of cases,” said Oyewale Tomori. a Nigerian virologist who participates in many WHO Advisory Groups. “It is a bit strange that the WHO only called its specialists when the disease appeared in white countries,” he said.

Until last month, smallpox had not caused significant outbreaks across Africa. Scientists have not found significant genetic changes in the virus, and a top WHO adviser said last month that the increase in cases in Europe was most likely linked to sexual activity between gay and bisexual men on two raves in Spain and Belgium.

To date, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed more than 3,300 cases of smallpox in 42 countries where the virus is not usually present. More than 80% of cases are in Europe. Africa, meanwhile, has already seen more than 1,400 cases this year, including 62 deaths.

David Fidler, senior fellow on global health at the External Relations Council, said the WHO’s recent focus on aphids in the midst of its spread across Africa could inadvertently widen the gap between rich and poor. observed during COVID-19.

“There may be good reasons why the WHO only sounded the alarm when apes spread to rich countries, but in poor countries, it looks like double standards,” Fidler said. He said the world community was still struggling to ensure that the world’s poor would be vaccinated against coronavirus and that it was unclear whether Africans even wanted monkeypox vaccines, given competitive priorities such as malaria and HIV.

“Unless African governments request specific vaccines, it might be a little polite to send them because it is in the West’s interest to stop exporting smallpox,” Fidler said.

The WHO also proposed setting up a vaccine-sharing mechanism to help affected countries, which could see doses go to rich countries such as Britain, which has the largest outbreak of monkey pox beyond Africa. – and recently expanded the use of vaccines.

To date, the vast majority of cases in Europe have been of gay or bisexual men or other men having sex with men, but scientists warn that anyone who comes in close contact with an infected person or his or her clothes or sheets are at risk of becoming infected. . , regardless of their sexual orientation. People with monkey pox often show symptoms such as fever, body aches and rash. most recover within weeks without the need for medical attention.

Even if the WHO announces that monkey pox is a global emergency, it is not clear what impact it may have.

In January 2020, the WHO declared COVID-19 an international emergency. However, few countries took it into account until March, when the organization described it as a pandemic, weeks after many other authorities did so. The WHO was later criticized for its multiple mistakes throughout the pandemic, which some experts said could trigger a faster response to monkey pox.

“After COVID, the WHO does not want to be the last to declare smallpox a state of emergency,” said Amanda Glassman, executive vice president at the Center for Global Development. “This may not reach the level of a COVID-like emergency, but it is still a public health emergency that needs to be addressed.”

Salim Abdool Karim, an epidemiologist and vice chancellor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, said the WHO and others should do more to stop monkey pox in Africa and elsewhere, but he was not convinced that a global declaration of emergency emergency would help.

“There is this misguided idea that Africa is this poor, helpless continent, when in fact, we know how to deal with epidemics,” said Abdool Karim. He said stopping the epidemic would ultimately depend on things like surveillance, patient isolation and public education.

“Europe may need vaccines to stop smallpox, but here, we were able to control it with very simple measures,” he said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.