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Microscope image showing monkeypox. PA

Monkeypox declared global health emergency by World Health Organization

69 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in Ireland so far.

THE WORLD HEALTH Organization has declared monkeypox a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)- the highest alarm it can sound.  

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the monkeypox outbreak has “rapidly” spread around the world. He said there is a moderate risk to countries globally but a high risk for people in Europe where cases are high. 

A PHEIC is described as an extraordinary event that poses a public health risk to countries through the international spread of disease and potentially requires a coordinated global response. 

Tedros said he has made a set of recommendations for countries depending on the situation with their monkeypox outbreaks at the moment.

When a global health emergency is declared, countries must respond promptly. 

More than 15,800 monkeypox cases have been detected in 72 countries, according to a tally by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published on 20 July.

69 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in Ireland, according to the latest report from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre. 

Cases of the illness have been increasing since early May outside the West and Central African countries where it has long been endemic. 

An emergency committee meeting was held to decide on declaring a global health emergency, but Tedros said a consensus was not reached. 

However, through his assessment of a number of criteria, it was decided to declare the outbreak a global concern.  

98% of reported cases “are among men who have sex with men — and primarily those who have multiple recent anonymous or new partners,” Rosamund Lewis, the WHO’s technical lead for monkeypox, told a press conference on Thursday. 

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said today that there is still time to bring the outbreak under control. 

On 23 June, the WHO convened an emergency committee of experts to decide if monkeypox constitutes a so-called Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) – the UN health agency’s highest alert level.

But the WHO chief was advised that the situation did not reach this threshold at the time. 

A second meeting was called on Thursday this week as case numbers kept rising. 

“I need your advice in assessing the immediate and mid-term public health implications,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the meeting, which lasted more than six hours.

There have been six PHEIC declarations since 2009, the last being for Covid-19 in 2020.

Monkeypox spreads through close contact and the risk of spread within the community is generally low. 

Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a rash with blisters.

The EU medicines agency yesterday recommended the use of smallpox vaccines against monkeypox. 

Additional reporting by AFP

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