Monkeypox warning: WHO emergency meeting called – what will happen next?

Monkeypox: Health agency urges people to look out for symptoms

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The World Health Organisation has called an emergency meeting regarding the spread of monkeypox after more than 100 cases have been confirmed or suspected in Europe. The current outbreak, which is affecting numerous European countries including the UK, is the largest outbreak ever outside of Africa.

Cases have been reported in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK, as well as the USA, Canada and Australia.

The Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Infectious Hazards with Pandemic and Epidemic Potential (STAG-IH), which advises on infection risks that could pose a threat to global health, will meet to discuss the outbreak.

The first European case was confirmed on May 7 in an individual who returned to England from Nigeria.

Since then, around 100 cases are thought to have been detected outside of Africa.

What will the WHO decide about monkeypox?

The WHO will most likely decide whether to declare the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

The committee has met nine times in history before the outbreak of Covid-19.

Of those, six PHEICs have been declared:

• Swine flu H1N1 (2009)
• Polio (2014)
• Ebola West Africa (2014)
• Zika virus (2016)
• Ebola DRC (2019)
• Covid-19 (2020)

What is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a viral infection that comes from infected wild animals and is usually found in west and central Africa.

Symptoms of monkeypox include:

  • A rash similar to the chickenpox rash
  • Fever and chills
  • Head, back and muscle aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Lethargy and exhaustion

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Where is monkeypox spreading?

As of Friday, May 20, monkeypox has been detected in the following areas:
Monkeypox, metropolitan areas:

  • London, UK: Nine confirmed
  • Lisbon, Portugal: 14 confirmed, six suspected
  • Madrid, Spain: 23+ suspected one ex-Canary Islands)
  • Quebec, Canada: 13 suspected
  • Boston, USA: One confirmed
  • Stockholm, Sweden: One confirmed
  • Rome, Italy: One confirmed

Will there be another pandemic?

Fabian Leendertz, from the Robert Koch Institute, described the outbreak as an epidemic.

He said: “However, it is very unlikely that this epidemic will last long.

“The cases can be well isolated via contact tracing and there are also drugs and effective vaccines that can be used if necessary.”

There is no specific vaccine for monkeypox, but data shows that the vaccines used to eradicate smallpox are up to 85 percent effective against monkeypox, according to the WHO.

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