Leading infectious disease experts are urging global health authorities to step up action to stem the growing monkeypox outbreak that has broken out in at least 20 countries.
The experts said the World Health Organization (WHO) and governments should not repeat the mistakes of the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, which delayed the detection of cases and allowed the virus to spread, the experts said.
These scientists say that while monkeypox is not as contagious and dangerous as COVID-19, there needs to be clearer guidelines on how to isolate and protect people who are at risk of infection. Recommendations, and improve inspection and epidemic control.
Isabelle Eckerle, a professor at the Geneva Centre for Emerging Viral Diseases in Switzerland, said: “If this becomes an endemic (in more countries), we have one more thorny problem. disease, and more difficult decisions have to be made.”
If a disease like COVID or Ebola is declared a “public health emergency of international concern” by the WHO, it represents a global health emergency and will help accelerate research and invest in controlling the spread of the disease.
Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s Public Health Emergencies Program, said on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva: “This has been under consideration, but there is no emergency committee (for monkeypox) yet. “
However, experts say the WHO may not be able to reach that conclusion too soon because monkeypox is a known threat and the world has the tools to deal with it. WHO officials said that discussing whether to set up an emergency committee to recommend a PHEIC declaration is just one of the WHO’s usual response tools.
Ecker called on the WHO to encourage countries to adopt more coordinated and stringent quarantine measures for monkeypox patients, even when no state of emergency has been declared.
She worries that claims that the virus is mild and that some countries have vaccines and treatments “could lead to laziness among public health authorities”.
More than 300 suspected and confirmed cases of monkeypox have been reported this month, a disease that is usually mild and spreads through close contact, causing cold-like symptoms and a peculiar rash.
Most of the reported cases are in Europe, rather than the central and western African countries where monkeypox is endemic. No deaths have been reported so far.
However, global health officials are concerned about the growing number of monkeypox outbreaks in non-endemic areas. The WHO said it expects the number of notifications to continue to increase as surveillance increases.
Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, tweeted that monkeypox is not the same as SARS-CoV-2, “but we are committing the the same error.”
Patients infected with monkeypox and some close contacts are advised to isolate for 21 days, but it is unclear how willing the public is to stay in such a long quarantine and cooperate with other measures. Ecker pointed out that the laboratory power to detect monkeypox virus is not yet widespread, so it may be difficult to detect infection quickly.
Mass vaccination is not considered necessary, but countries such as the UK and France already provide vaccines for healthcare workers and close contacts.