MONDAY, July 25, 2022 (HealthDay News) -- Monkeypox, which has now spread to 75 countries and sickened at least 16,000 people, has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The declaration came after WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, M.D., overruled a panel of advisors that could not come to a consensus on whether the virus had reached that level of concern or not. "We have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission, about which we understand too little, and which meets the criteria" for a public health emergency, Tedros said during a media briefing on Saturday.
The WHO panel was hesitant to make the declaration because the virus is still spreading mostly in the primary risk group, men who have sex with men, and not among more vulnerable groups, including pregnant women, older adults, or children, The New York Times reported. However, of the 3,000 cases now reported in the United States, two were children.
Only COVID-19 and polio have received the same designation, which can help prompt member countries to invest resources to help curb the outbreak and to share vaccines and treatments.
Symptoms in the latest monkeypox outbreak include lesions in the throat, urethra, and rectum that can be very painful. Fever, body aches, or respiratory symptoms are typically associated with the disease, but those symptoms are not being experienced by all during this outbreak, The Times reported.
Meanwhile, a recent genetic analysis of samples from infected patients showed the monkeypox genome has collected nearly 50 genetic mutations since 2018, far more than the six or seven it would have been expected to express in that period. Whether the mutations have changed the transmission, severity, or other qualities of the virus is not clear, but the data hint that monkeypox may be spreading more easily since 2018.