The WHO Expert Committee on Monkeypox began its meeting in Geneva on Thursday to determine whether the current outbreak of cases constitutes a public health emergency of international concern, its highest alert level.
The meeting is expected to last several hours, the World Health Organization (WHO) told the AFP news agency. This emergency committee will be responsible for assessing the epidemiological indicators as the situation has deteriorated in recent weeks with more than 15,300 cases registered in 71 countries, according to the latest figures from the United States health authorities (CDC).
“Regardless of the committee’s recommendation, WHO will continue to do everything possible to stop monkeypox and save lives,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the UN organization, at a press conference on Wednesday.
At a first meeting on June 23, the majority of experts recommended Dr. Tedros not to declare a public health emergency of international concern.
The unusual increase in monkeypox cases outside central and west African countries where the virus is endemic, detected in early May, has since spread around the world, with Europe as the epicenter.
First discovered in humans in the 1970s, monkeypox is less dangerous and contagious than its relative, smallpox, which was eradicated in the 1980s.
In most cases, the patients are men who have sex with men, are relatively young and, according to the WHO, live mainly in cities.
As of July 18, the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CEDC) has registered 7,896 monkeypox virus infections.
Spain is hardest hit with 2835 cases, followed by Germany (1924), France (912), the Netherlands (656) and Portugal (515), with most cases involving “groups of men” who have sex with men aged 18 years have -50′. According to figures from the BAG on Wednesday, there were around 216 in Switzerland.
Outside of Africa, “99% of reported cases are men,” said Dr. Rosamund Lewis, the WHO’s leading expert on monkeypox, on Wednesday, and 98% of them are “men who have sexual relations with men and mainly those who have several recent partners, new or anonymous”.
“The community that is currently infected is one of the most committed, powerful and responsible we have, having worked so hard for years to bring an even more deadly virus under control” (HIV) and “complete trust” in the WHO hat, The head of WHO emergencies, Dr. Michael Ryan, pointed this out on Wednesday.
The health authority is working closely with civil society and LGBTQI+ communities to facilitate the dissemination of information about the disease, particularly on the fringes of summer festivals and pride marches.
“These are important celebrations of identity: it is also very important that these places, events and activities share information so that people can protect themselves,” added Dr. Lewis added.
The health authority is working in parallel with member states and experts to advance research and development around the virus.
“Although we are seeing a downward trend in some countries, others are still facing increases, and six countries saw their first cases last week,” said Dr. tedros
“Some of these countries have far less access to diagnostics and vaccines, making it harder to trace and stop the outbreak,” while vaccine supplies are running low, he added.
Danish company Bavarian Nordic, the only laboratory producing an approved monkeypox vaccine, announced on Tuesday that it had received an order for 1.5 million doses, most of which will be delivered in 2023, from a European country , whose name is not filtered , while the United States ordered 2.5 million additional doses.
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