Even as WHO’s emergency committee meets Thursday to discuss whether the rapidly spreading monkeypox outbreak merits a global emergency designation, some experts fear that WHO’s decision to act only after the disease has spread to Western countries will reinforce the grotesque inequities that arose during the coronavirus pandemic between rich and poor countries.
An “extraordinary event” would be a declaration by the U.N. health agency that the outbreak is a worldwide emergency and that the illness is in danger of spreading much farther across borders. There is a similar contrast between the COVID-19 epidemic and the polio eradication campaign.
In light of the fact that the wealthy nations reporting the most recent instances are already acting fast to shut down the epidemic, many experts doubt such a proclamation will assist to curtail it.
The latest monkeypox pandemic has been classified as rare and worrying by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last week. People in Central and West Africa have been plagued by monkeypox for decades; one strain of the illness kills up to 10% of those infected. There have been no documented fatalities in the pandemic outside of Africa so far.
Until recently, monkeypox outbreaks were limited to Africa. According to a WHO expert, the recent uptick in infections in Europe is probably due to homosexual and bisexual males engaging in sexual activity at two raves in Spain and Belgium, but no significant genetic alterations have been discovered in the virus.
42 new countries affected
Over 3,300 monkeypox cases have been verified by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 42 nations where the virus has not before been seen. Europe accounts for a whopping 82% of all cases. Africa, on the other hand, has recorded over 1,400 cases so far this year, with 62 fatalities.
Additionally, the World Health Organization (WHO) has proposed creating a vaccine-sharing means to help impacted countries, which might lead to the distribution of vaccines to wealthy countries like the United Kingdom, which has the largest monkeypox outbreak outside of Africa and has recently increased its use of vaccines.
Men who have had sexual relations with another man have accounted for the majority of cases in Europe thus far; however, researchers caution that any person who comes into close contact with an infected person, their body parts, or their clothing or bedding, regardless of gender, is at risk of contracting the virus. Fever, body pains, and a rash are common symptoms of monkeypox, although most people heal on their own within a few weeks.