The World Health Organization’s Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, labeled the development of monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) on Saturday, July 23, the organization’s loudest warning bell signaling an approaching outbreak.

More than 15,000 cases of monkeypox have been discovered in more than 60 countries since early May. The monkeypox virus normally causes a few days of fever and lymph node enlargement, followed by a rash that can leave scars. The majority of cases in the current outbreak have been resolved without the need for hospitalization or medicine. There have been three deaths as of July 7, all in Africa.

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In late June, the WHO organized a committee to examine if monkeypox constituted a PHEIC. As instances continued to climb throughout the world, the committee reconvened on July 21 — and the decision was different this time.

“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 international health regulations,” Tedros said when announcing the emergency.

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The last time the WHO proclaimed a worldwide emergency was for Covid-19 in early 2020. While the sickness produced by the presently circulating monkeypox virus is far less severe and spreads much more slowly than Covid-19, there are compelling reasons for the WHO to declare an emergency.

For starters, this monkeypox outbreak is unlike previous outbreaks, according to Ana B. Amaya, a specialist in global health governance at Pace University in New York. The great majority of the most recent instances have been detected among homosexual and bisexual males, with sexual interaction with many sexual partners emerging as a prominent risk factor. Scientists are also attempting to ascertain if the virus spreads through sexual fluids such as sperm and vaginal fluid in addition to the previously recognized methods of transmission: skin-to-skin contact and, to a lesser extent, respiratory transmission.

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Prior to the present epidemic, monkeypox was commonly transmitted through close contact and maybe shared things such as utensils and linens. Isolated cases of monkeypox infections among youngsters, who are known to be at higher risk of catastrophic consequences, have emerged in recent weeks, reinforcing the concern that without containment, epidemics frequently expand beyond the areas where they begin.

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