Committee members may announce their decision on whether the outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern as early as Friday, but in the meantime, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the spread of the disease in both non-endemic and endemic countries “is not may be ignored.”
The first mysterious cluster appeared in the United Kingdom just over six weeks ago, when WHO reported a family group of three cases without any recent travel.
“Since then, more than 3,200 confirmed cases monkeypoxand one death has been reported to WHO from 48 countries, including Nigeria, and from five WHO regions,” Tedros said.
He added that the outbreak in newly affected countries continues to be mostly among men who have sex with men reporting recent sex with new or multiple partners.
“Person-to-person transmission continues and is likely to be underestimated. In Nigeria, the proportion of women affected is much higher than elsewhere, and she critical to better understand how the disease spreads there“, – said the head of WHO.
He said that almost 1,500 suspected cases of monkeypox and about 70 deaths have been reported in Central Africa this year, mainly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), but also in the Central African Republic and Cameroon.
“Few of these cases are confirmed and little is known about their circumstances. Although the epidemiology and viral clade in these cases may differ, this situation cannot be ignored.“.
Sharing information saves lives
He outlined several requests to Member States in the future, primarily for the exchange of all information. In some other outbursts, he said, “we have sometimes seen the consequences of the opacity of countriesdo not share information.
He called for case finding, contact tracing, laboratory testing, genome sequencing and the implementation of infection prevention and control measures. WHO also needs clear case definitions to help detect and report infections.
And the head of the WHO said that all countries should ” remain vigilant and strengthen our capacity to prevent further transmission of monkeypox. It is likely that many countries will miss the opportunity to identify casesincluding cases in the community without any recent travel.”
WHO’s goal is to help countries contain transmission and stop the outbreak with established public health tools, including surveillance, contact tracing and isolation of infected patients.
Risks for healthcare workers
Tedros said there are also “some risks for healthcare workers if they don’t wear appropriate personal protective equipment.”
“So, while most of the cases so far in the newly affected countries have been in men who have sex with men, WHO is calling for increased surveillance in the wider community.”
We have learned a lot from recent outbreaks, including COVID-19 and the global HIV epidemic, he told the assembled scientists, but one of the most important is working closely with these communities “to create effective risk communications together. That is what the WHO is doing.”
Fighting stigma, disinformation
Tedros said it it is essential to combat stigma, discrimination and misinformationin monkeypoxand other outbreaks, quickly and decisively.
“We must also work together as an international community to obtain the necessary data on the clinical efficacy and safety of monkeypox vaccines and therapeutics, and to ensure their fair distribution.”