Next week, the World Health Organization will convene in an emergency session to evaluate the worldwide monkeypox outbreak and decide whether the virus should be labeled a global public health emergency. They’ll also rename the illness after scientists raised concerns that “monkeypox” was racist, according to officials.
The WHO’s emergency committee will meet on June 23 to discuss the outbreak, which Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the organization’s Director-General, called “unusual and alarming.”
Because of this, I have chosen to convene the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations next week to determine whether this illness poses a public health emergency of worldwide concern, Tedros said during a news conference.
The WHO director-general announced that there have been over 1,600 confirmed cases and almost 1,500 suspected monkeypox infections reported this year from 39 nations, including seven nations where the virus has previously been discovered and 32 countries that are newly affected.
“To date, 72 fatalities have been reported in countries previously affected by monkeypox. There have yet to be any fatalities reported in the newly-infected countries, although WHO is seeking confirmation of reports from Brazil of a monkeypox-related death.” Tedros continued.
WHO’s objective is to assist nations, contain the epidemic, and stop it with tried-and-true public health solutions such as surveillance, contact tracking, and quarantine of infected patients, according to Dr. Bindi.
To that end, the World Health Organization has released interim recommendations for public health officials to follow. The guidelines state that mass immunization against monkeypox is not yet necessary or advised, and that smallpox and monkeypox vaccines should be utilized on a case-by-case basis after a comprehensive assessment of their potential hazards and advantages for each patient.
“While smallpox vaccines are anticipated to provide some monkeypox protection, there is currently no clinical evidence and a limited supply,” Tedros said. “Any decision about whether to use vaccines should be made together by those who may be at risk and their health care provider on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the risks and benefits.”
“We are working with experts and partners from all across the world to change the name of the monkeypox virus, the disease it causes and its clades,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Gedefen, director-general of the World Health Organization.
A group of more than 30 international scientists released an open letter last week calling for a non-discriminatory, non-stigmatizing name for monkeypox. They argued that referring to the virus as an “African” illness was discriminatory and stigmatizing in news reports. The WHO’s guidelines prohibit the use of geographic areas or animal names to identify disease-causing organisms, according To a WHO representative.
The name changes will be made public as soon as possible, according to Tedros.