By now you’ve probably heard about the recent rise in monkeypox cases, however, experts weren’t calling it an emergency until now. Monkeypox, which has now spread to 75 countries and sickened at least 16,000 people, has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The declaration came after WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus overruled a panel of advisors who could not come to a consensus on whether the virus had reached that level of concern.
Could the delayed response hurt us?
“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” for a public health emergency, Tedros said during a media briefing on Saturday.
The WHO panel was hesitant to make the declaration because the virus is still spreading mostly in the primary risk group, men who have sex with men, and not among more vulnerable groups, including pregnant women, older adults or children, The New York Times reported. However, of the 3,000 cases now reported in the United States, two were children.
Only COVID-19 and polio have received the same designation, which can help prompt member countries to invest resources to help curb the outbreak, and share vaccines and treatments.
It could take a year or more to tame the outbreak, Dr. James Lawler, co-director of the University of Nebraska’s Global Center for Health Security, told the Times.
So what does this all mean?
“We’ve now unfortunately really missed the boat on being able to put a lid on the outbreak earlier,” Lawler says. “Now, it’s going to be a real struggle to be able to contain and control spread.”
Some in the LGBTQ community have said the virus has not received the attention it deserves, similar to the early days of the HIV epidemic, according to the Times.
Still, the WHO’s declaration is “better late than never,” Dr. Boghuma Titanji, an infectious diseases doctor at Emory University in Atlanta, told the Times.
But with the delay, “one can argue that the response globally has continued to suffer from a lack of