Lauren Dempsey, MS in Biomedicine and Law, RN, FISM News
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared monkeypox a global health emergency on Saturday amidst rising global cases.
While the designation recalls for many the beginnings of the COVID outbreak which shut down the globe, this virus seems to be of much less concern for the general public as the vast majority of cases remain isolated to the homosexual male community and only 5 deaths have been reported thus far.
In a press conference, the organization said that despite the virus’s limited scope it believes the current outbreak meets the criteria of a global threat and warrants an international response. While the WHO has no authority to issue mandates on a response, it can make recommendations and provide guidance to member states as a means to prevent the spread of a disease and avert a pandemic. This designation by the WHO is rare, with the last one being issued in January of 2020 for the coronavirus.
The organization said it considered “five elements” to determine if there was “international concern” related to the “evolving outbreak.”
The WHO considered that this virus has quickly spread to countries where it is not endemic and that there are many unknowns about the virus. The organization also noted that there is “risk to human health, international spread, and the potential for interference with international traffic.”
According to the WHO, there have been more than 16,000 cases of monkeypox reported across more than 70 countries this year and the number of confirmed infections rose 77% from June through early July. No one has died outside of Africa, which has had five deaths so far. In the United States, there have been 2,891 cases of the virus reported and the CDC is working to “better understand the outbreak and inform response efforts.”
There is no cure for the virus, but in most cases, monkeypox resolves on its own with some individuals seeking symptom management. The most common symptoms of monkeypox are fever and chills, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, and a rash that looks like blisters or pimples. Illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.
The virus can be transmitted from animal to humans, as well as through direct contact with other humans, specifically through respiratory secretions. Those most at risk for contracting the virus are individuals who have close contact with someone who has monkeypox, healthcare workers, newborns and young infants, and immunocompromised individuals.
A recently published study suggests that monkeypox likely spreads through sex, explaining why men who have sex with men make up 98% of current cases. 41% of the cases were also reported among those with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). In 95% of cases, the virus was spread through sexual activity.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that cases are “concentrated among men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners,” adding that this means “this is an outbreak that can be stopped with the right strategies in the right groups.” Transmission outside of the gay community has been low and Ghebreyesus cautioned against stigmatizing any particular groups while trying to prevent the community spread of monkeypox.
The CDC is recommending vaccination for people who have been exposed to monkeypox or are at risk of being exposed. The U.S. previously purchased and has begun to distribute a vaccine manufactured by Bavarian Nordic called Jynneos in an effort to eliminate the outbreak. The government recently purchased an additional 5 million doses for distribution.