Child’s monkeypox case raises alarm as WHO considers declaring health emergency

A negatively stained electron micrograph of a monkeypox virus virion in human vesicular fluid.
Enlarge / A negatively stained electron micrograph of a monkeypox virus virion in human vesicular fluid.

The World Health Organization is currently reconsidering whether to declare the burgeoning multinational outbreak of monkeypox a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (USPPI), the agency’s highest level of alert. .

The deliberations come as the global number of monkeypox cases tops 16,000 and a new report of an unexplained case in a child in the Netherlands raises alarms about the potential spread of the virus.

On Thursday, the WHO’s emergency committee met for seven hours to assess the state of the outbreak. It was the second time WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had convened the international expert panel. At the previous meeting almost a month ago, the committee expressed concern about the situation but concluded overall that it had not yet reached the level of a USPPI.

That June decision drew criticism from some in the public health community, who felt the committee had “thrown a kick”. Critics further feared the ruling could compromise the ability of a PHEIC declaration to help get ahead of a burgeoning infectious disease outbreak.

Global cases

The outcome of yesterday’s meeting is still unclear. The committee is currently finalizing a report to the chief executive, and the agency told Ars there is no specific timeline for announcing the result.

At present, the WHO has received reports of more than 16,000 cases from 71 Member States which cover the six regions of the world designated by the WHO. The epicenter of the outbreak continues to be Europe. Five people have died in the multinational outbreak, three in Nigeria and two in the Central African Republic.

Although some countries are beginning to report downward trends in cases, Tedros noted, other countries are just beginning to identify cases. Six countries reported their first cases last week, he said during a press briefing on Wednesday.

The vast majority of cases continue to be identified in men who have sex with men (MSM).

“This pattern of transmission represents both an opportunity to implement targeted public health interventions and a challenge because in some countries affected communities face life-threatening discrimination,” Tedros said at the start of the meeting. emergency committee on Thursday.

The continued spread of the virus, particularly in countries where people face significant barriers to care, only increases the risk of the virus spreading further and to more vulnerable populations, such as pregnant women and children, health experts fear.

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