GENEVA – The World Health Organization’s top official in Europe on Wednesday called for urgent action by authorities and civic groups to control the rapidly growing case of monkeypox, which he said posed a real risk to public health.
Europe has emerged as the epicenter of the monkeypox outbreak, with more than 1,500 cases identified in 25 European countries, accounting for 85 percent of the global cases, the official said. Hans Cluj, director of the WHO’s European Region, told a news conference.
The WHO will hold its emergency committee meeting in Geneva next week, Dr. Cluj added, adding that the outbreak is a public health emergency of international concern, an official declaration to determine whether to call for a coordinated response between countries.
“The extent of this outbreak poses a real risk,” said Dr. Cluj. “The longer the virus persists, the more it will spread, and the more prevalent the disease will be in non-democratic countries.”
The monkeypox is a local viral infection in West Africa, but it has now spread to 39 countries, including 32 of which have no previous experience, WHO director Dr Tedros Adhanam Ghebresas told reporters on Tuesday. Countries outside Africa and Europe that have detected cases of monkeypox include Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel and the United States.
The infection is most often caused by close physical contact and mainly affects men who have sex with men, but through prolonged face-to-face contact it can also spread through shortness of breath, says Andrea Ammon, director of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. Wednesday press conference. The incidence of monkeypox has also been found in close family members, but the risk of infection among the general population, Dr. Amon said, is “low.”
Monkeypox is not affiliated with any single social group, Dr. Cluj said, adding that stigmatizing the virus as a homosexual disease would undermine efforts to develop an effective public health response, as was the case with HIV and AIDS.
The WHO has recorded 27 deaths from the disease in Africa this year, but none in Europe. Infections are mostly mild and do not require hospitalization, but people in close contact with the virus should also be isolated for 21 days.
Dr Cluj reiterated his fear that the spread of monkeypox in Europe could accelerate during the summer months when hundreds of pride events, music festivals and other public gatherings would be held, but said that monkeypox events were not a reason to cancel. Rallies have provided a valuable opportunity to raise awareness about the disease, he said, urging event organizers, local communities and dating apps to provide a clear message on how to prevent or treat the disease.
Dr Cluj called on European countries to take urgent steps for surveillance, diagnostic testing and genetic sequencing and identification of infected persons and identification of sexual partners. The WHO has released an emergency fund to increase laboratory capacity to identify countries that lack the monkeypox virus.
What to know about monkeypox virus
What is a monkeypox? Monkeypox is a virus endemic to parts of Central and West Africa. It is like smallpox, but less severe. It was discovered in 1958 after an outbreak of monkeys kept for research, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
But mass vaccinations are not recommended, Dr. Cluj said, echoing Dr. Tedros’ remarks on Tuesday, and he expressed concern that rich countries would repeat the mistakes of the Kovid-19 epidemic and quickly take over exclusive stocks of the vaccine.
Dr Tedros said the WHO was working with member states to develop an initiative that would ensure more equitable access, but added that “we are already seeing the need to acquire and stockpile these in some areas.”
The WHO is working with experts to find out as soon as possible another name for monkeypox and the disease that it causes, Dr. Tedros said Tuesday.
The current name is “misleading and scandalous,” Christian Lindmeyer, a WHO spokesman, said Wednesday. Preliminary research has indicated the possibility of human-to-human transmission over the years, but the existing name, he said, could encourage the misconception that humans are not susceptible to infection unless they come into contact with Africa or related animals. .