Faced with the outbreak of monkeypox, the director general of the WHO must announce on Saturday whether he has chosen to trigger – or not – the highest level of alert of the organization.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will give a virtual press conference at 1:00 p.m. GMT, the UN organization announced on Friday evening.
The statement said nothing about the nature of Dr. Tedros’ announcement as the outbreak of monkeypox cases now affects more than 15,800 people in 72 countries, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Diseases dashboard. Disease Prevention (CDC) as of July 20.
Again Thursday, during a long meeting of the Committee of Experts who must guide him in his decision and his recommendations, Dr. Tedros explained that he “remains worried” about the spread of the disease, even if the rate of spread decreased in some places.
It is the head of the WHO who is responsible for possibly declaring a public health emergency of international concern, the highest level of alert of the health agency, supposed to trigger a whole series of actions of member countries.
At a first meeting on June 23, the majority of experts recommended that Dr. Tedros not declare a public health emergency of international concern (USPPI).
“Monkey pox is out of control, there is no legal, scientific or health reason not to declare a public health emergency of international concern,” US health law professor Lawrence Gostin tweeted on Friday evening. and director of the WHO Center for Health Law.
– Inform, raise awareness –
Detected in early May, the unusual upsurge in monkeypox cases outside central and western African countries where the virus is endemic has since spread across the globe, with Europe as its epicenter.
First detected in humans in 1970, monkeypox is less dangerous and contagious than its cousin smallpox, eradicated in 1980.
In most cases, the patients are men who have sex with men, relatively young, and living mainly in cities, according to the WHO.
A study published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, the largest on the subject and based on data from 16 different countries, confirms that the vast majority — 95% — of recent cases were transmitted during sexual contact and that 98% of those affected were gay or bisexual men.
“This mode of transmission represents both an opportunity to implement targeted public health interventions, and a challenge, because in some countries, affected communities face discrimination that threatens their lives,” said Dr. Tedros.
“There is a real concern that men who have sex with men could be stigmatized or blamed for the spike in cases, making it much harder to trace and stop,” he warned.
If the reason for not declaring a USPPI “is because it is restricted to the community of men who have sex with men, that is wrong and outrageous,” Prof Gostin tweeted.
– Vaccinate –
On Friday, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said it had approved the use of a human smallpox vaccine to expand its use against the spread of monkeypox. This vaccine is in fact already used for this purpose in several countries, including France.
The Imvanex vaccine, from Danish company Bavarian Nordic, has been approved in the EU since 2013 for the prevention of smallpox.
The WHO recommends vaccinating those most at risk as well as health workers likely to be confronted with the disease.
In New York, thousands of people have already been vaccinated with the Jynneos vaccine.