WHO looks at decision on monkey’s emergency ‘, Africa says it’s long time By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Test tubes labeled “Monkeypox virus positive and negative” are seen in this illustration taken May 23, 2022. REUTERS / Dado Ruvic / Illustration / File Photo

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By Jennifer Rigby

LONDON (Reuters) – The World Health Organization will on Thursday decide whether monkeys should be declared a global health emergency, sparking criticism from leading African scientists who say it has been a crisis in their region for years.

The deliberations and scrutiny of the WHO response to the outbreak follow concerns over how the UN agency and governments around the world handled COVID-19 in early 2020.

A “public health emergency of international concern” is the WHO’s highest alert. The agency does not declare pandemics, but it began using the term to describe COVID-19 in March 2020.

For many governments, it was – rather than the WHO’s previous declaration of emergency in January – the moment they began to take real action to try to limit COVID, which turned out to be too late to make a difference.

Monkey pox did not spread nearly as easily as COVID, and there are vaccines and treatments available, unlike coronavirus when it appeared. But it has still raised alarm.

The number of cases from the current outbreak outside Africa has peaked at 3,000 in more than 40 countries, according to a Reuters survey – mainly among men having sex with men – since it was first reported in May. There have been no reports of deaths.

The viral disease, which causes flu-like symptoms and skin lesions, is endemic in parts of Africa. The continent has registered just over 1,500 suspected cases since the start of 2022, 66 of which have been fatal, according to official data.

“When a disease strikes developing countries, it is (apparently) not an emergency. It only becomes an emergency when developed countries are affected,” said Professor Emmanuel Nakoune, acting director of the Pasteur Institute in Bangui, Central African Republic, who is standing up. an experiment with a monkey cup treatment.

Still, Nakoune said that if the WHO declares an emergency in the case of monkey pox, it would still be an important step.

“If there is the political will to share the means of reaction equally between developed and developing countries … each country will be able to benefit from it,” he said.

At an online briefing with journalists on Thursday, the acting director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, said the number of monkey pox and deaths was already at “emergency levels” on the continent.

WHO will convene a closed expert meeting at 12.00 (1000 GMT) in Geneva. It is still unclear when the decision will be published.

The emergency committee meeting on Thursday includes experts from the most affected regions, who have also consulted with scientists, including Nakoune. They will make a recommendation to WHO Director – General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who will make the ultimate decision on whether to call for an emergency.

The step works mainly to sound the alarm and can provoke further guidance from the WHO, as well as focus the attention among the member countries. The WHO has already provided detailed guidance on the outbreak, saying it is working on a mechanism to share treatments and vaccines.

Most experts agree that monkey pox technically meets the criteria for WHO’s definition of an emergency. It is a sudden and unusual event that is spreading internationally and requires cooperation across countries.

But the WHO is in a precarious position after COVID, according to Clare Wenham, a global health assistant professor at the London School of Economics.

If the WHO declares an emergency and the countries do not act, it could undermine the agency’s role in controlling global diseases, she said.

“They’re cursed if they do, and cursed if they don’t,” she added.

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