Monkeypox Turns Global Emergency: Is WHO Declaration Too Soon?

On 23rd July the Director General at World Health Organisation declares Monkeypox a global health emergency. The DG in his press release noted the spread of the disease in more than 75 countries of the world. He said, “I have decided that the Global monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern.”

The decision is in a hurry or the jitters of an already harassed WHO? In the hindsight, his declaration followed after the inconclusive results of the meeting on 21st July of the Second Committee on IHR. The committee voted 6 to 3 against declaring Monkeypox a global emergency. Some experts reference the decision as a little done in haste. They argue can the disease spread and declared a global health emergency.

What is Monkeypox and how did it originate?

According to the WHO,  monkeypox is a virus which spreads to humans from animals like rats and other small mammals. It has symptoms similar to smallpox. Some points for readers are the following:

  • Monkeypox is usually a self-limited disease with symptoms lasting from 2 to 4 weeks. Severe cases can occur. In recent times, the case fatality ratio has been around 3–6%.
  • It typically presents clinically with fever, rash and swollen lymph nodes and may lead to a range of medical complications.
  • The virus transmits from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding.

Monkeypox first originated in research labs monkeys in Amsterdam in 1958 and as told earlier first reported case was in 1970. Though some animal activists appal at discrimination against monkeys only because it can spread thru rats also.

Is Monkeypox spreading fast?

According to reports by the World health organisation, the virus as of 21st July has 15238 confirmed cases around the world and 72 probable cases with 5 deaths being reported. The question remains unanswered whether the decision to declare it an emergency was a knee-jerk reaction. To understand this we have to go into the background of the health crisis facing the world for the past 2 years.

Is the decision to declare Monkeypox a global emergency done in haste?

The world has been struggling with the crisis of Coronavirus for the past two years now. And royally the WHO has been at forefront of all the health decisions during these two years keeping the agency on its tenterhooks. During the past two years, how things handled at the World health organization is severely criticized by the public and the science community. Experts have believed that the Covid-19 pandemic was declared too late.

In 2020, the virus spread in January, though declared in March, when half the world was affected. Countries went into lockdown after the declaration on 11th March. This time with Monkeypox, the DG Ghebreyesus overruled his committee and their indecision to declare a health emergency, he declared. His argument may be the filing of patents in US hospitals depleting stocks of medicines. In the Netherlands also according to reports, the patients are filling in daily in hundreds.

In Africa, apart from rising cases, the biggest worry is unreported cases. India also reported four cases in July mostly confined to Kerala and no evidence of prevailing in the rest of the country.

Reactions over the news is it trouble?

The day Dr Ghebreyesus announced, that his Twitter handles flooded with both encouraging welcomes and rebuffs. One comment welcomed, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Some sceptics rebuffed, “I think you overplayed your hand.” Whatsoever the objective behind the decision, it is more than welcome for the people and nations to prepare themselves.