Monkeypox has affected over 15,800 people in 72 countries, according to a tally by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published on July 20 (stock image)
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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the monkeypox outbreak to be a global health emergency – the highest alarm it can sound – following its ‘extraordinary’ spread to more than 70 countries.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the decision to issue the declaration despite a lack of consensus among experts serving on the U.N. health agency’s emergency committee. 

It was the first time the chief of the U.N. health agency has taken such an action.

‘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 in the international health regulations,’ Tedros said.

‘I know this has not been an easy or straightforward process and that there are divergent views among the members of the committee,’ he added.

A global emergency is WHO’s highest level of alert, but the designation does not necessarily mean a disease is particularly transmissible or lethal. 

WHO’s emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, said the director-general made the decision to put monkeypox in that category to ensure the global community takes the current outbreaks seriously. 

The UN health agency’s declaration could spur further investment in treating the once-rare disease – and also worsen the scramble for scarce vaccines.

Monkeypox has affected over 15,800 people in 72 countries, according to a tally by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published on July 20 (stock image)

Monkeypox has affected over 15,800 people in 72 countries, according to a tally by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published on July 20 (stock image)

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (above) made the decision to issue the declaration despite a lack of consensus among experts serving on the U.N. health agency's emergency committee

 WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (above) made the decision to issue the declaration despite a lack of consensus among experts serving on the U.N. health agency’s emergency committee

Doctor Molly Dickinson administers a dose of the monkeypox vaccine to Arthur Macedo, 37, in London

Doctor Molly Dickinson administers a dose of the monkeypox vaccine to Arthur Macedo, 37, in London

Although monkeypox has been established in parts of central and west Africa for decades, it was not known to spark large outbreaks beyond the continent or to spread widely among people until May, when authorities detected dozens of epidemics in Europe, North America and elsewhere.

Declaring a global emergency means the monkeypox outbreak is an ‘extraordinary event’ that could spill over into more countries and requires a coordinated global response.

The WHO previously declared emergencies for public health crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak, the Zika virus in Latin America in 2016 and the ongoing effort to eradicate polio.

The emergency declaration mostly serves as a plea to draw more global resources and attention to an outbreak.

Monkeypox has affected over 15,800 people in 72 countries, according to a tally by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published on July 20.

A surge in monkeypox infections has been reported since early May outside the West and Central African countries where the disease has long been endemic. 

Officials are urging gay and bisexual men to be aware of new lesions, rashes or scabs and get in contact with a sexual health clinic

Officials are urging gay and bisexual men to be aware of new lesions, rashes or scabs and get in contact with a sexual health clinic

Pictured: First monkeypox patient to go public is a gay HR manager from London 

The first British monkeypox patient to go public is an HR manager from London who caught the virus after being deported from Dubai for testing positive for HIV, MailOnline can reveal. 

James M, 35, has spoken out after claiming that health chiefs still haven’t contacted him despite being diagnosed with monkeypox nearly a fortnight ago.

He slammed the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) for ‘a real lack of any basic process or care to stop the spread’ of the tropical virus, which has so far infected more than 300 Britons, mostly gay and bisexual men.

James — who wished to keep his surname anonymous — admitted he is not following self-isolation rules because ‘I was told to stay home until UKHSA contacted me… and they never did.’ 

He accused the UK of having a lackadaisical approach to contact tracing, saying it was ‘no wonder’ Britain had more cases than any other country outside of Africa. There is also a lack of awareness about monkeypox’s lesser-known symptoms, he claimed. 

James was readjusting to life in west London when he began suffering from ‘really weird aches’ in his lower back, exhaustion, extreme thirst and pain when he used the toilet.

He became convinced he had a sexually transmitted infection (STI) after sleeping with around 10 new partners in the weeks before his symptoms started. 

‘I’m a gay man, and having just come back to the UK, I was having a good time,’ he told MailOnline. 

But medics wrongly assumed it wasn’t monkeypox because he didn’t have the virus’ tell-tale rash. 

James M, 35, has become the first British monkeypox patient to go public

James M, 35, has become the first British monkeypox patient to go public

On June 23, the WHO convened an emergency committee (EC) of experts to decide if monkeypox constitutes a so-called Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) – the UN health agency’s highest alert level.

But a majority advised the Tedros that the situation, at that point, had not met the threshold.

The second meeting was called on Thursday with case numbers rising further, where Tedros said he was worried.

‘I need your advice in assessing the immediate and mid-term public health implications,’ Tedros told the meeting, which lasted more than six hours.

WHO’s top monkeypox expert, Dr. Rosamund Lewis, said this week that 99 per cent of all the monkeypox cases beyond Africa were in men and that of those, 98 per cent involved men who have sex with men. 

Experts suspect the monkeypox outbreaks in Europe and North America were spread via sex at two raves in Belgium and Spain.

‘Although I am declaring a public health emergency of international concern for the moment, this is an outbreak that is concentrated among men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners,’ Tedros said. 

‘That means that this is an outbreak that can be stopped with the right strategies in the right groups.’

Emergencies chief Ryan, explained what preceded the director-general’s decision: ‘(Tedros) found that the committee did not reach a consensus, despite having a very open, very useful, very considered debate on the issues, and that since he’s not going against the committee, what he’s recognizing is that there are deep complexities in this issue,’ Ryan said. 

‘There are uncertainties on all sides. And he’s reflecting that uncertainty and his determination of the event to be a global emergency.’

A US health expert sounded a grim warning late Friday.

‘Since the last #monkeypox EC just weeks ago we’ve seen an exponential rise in cases,’ Lawrence Gostin, the director of the WHO Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law, said on Twitter.

‘It’s inevitable that cases will dramatically rise in the coming weeks & months. That’s why @DrTedros must sound the global alarm.’

‘A failure to act will have grave consequences for global health.’

The European Union’s drug watchdog on Friday recommended for approval the use of Imnavex, a smallpox vaccine, to treat monkeypox.

Imvanex, developed by Danish drugmaker Bavarian Nordic, has been approved in the EU since 2013 for the prevention of smallpox.

It was also considered a potential vaccine for monkeypox because of the similarity between the monkeypox virus and the smallpox virus.

Monkeypox Virus

A viral infection resembling smallpox and first detected in humans in 1970, monkeypox is less dangerous and contagious than smallpox, which was eradicated in 1980.

Ninety-five percent of cases have been transmitted through sexual activity, according to a study of 528 people in 16 countries published in the New England Journal of Medicine – the largest research to date.

Overall, 98 percent of infected people were gay or bisexual men, and around a third were known to have visited sex-on-site venues such as sex parties or saunas within the previous month.

The first symptoms of monkeypox are fever, headaches, muscle pain and back pain during the course of five days.

Rashes subsequently appear on the face, the palms of hands and soles of feet, followed by lesions, spots and finally scabs.

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