Some leading infectious disease experts are calling for faster action by global health authorities to contain a growing epidemic of monkeypox that has spread to at least 20 countries.
They argue that governments and the World Health Organization should not repeat the early missteps of the COVID-19 pandemic, which delayed the detection of cases by helping the virus spread.
While monkeypox is not as transmissible or dangerous as COVID, these scientists say there needs to be clearer guidance on how a person infected with monkeypox should be isolated, more explicit advice on how to protect people at risk, and improved testing and contact tracking. . .
If this becomes endemic, we will have another nasty disease and a lot of difficult decisions to make
– Isabelle Eckerle, a professor at the Geneva Center for Emerging Men’s Diseases
“If this becomes endemic (in more countries), we will have another nasty disease and a lot of difficult decisions to make,” said Isabelle Eckerle, a professor at the Geneva Center for Emerging Men’s Diseases in Switzerland.
The WHO is considering whether the blast should be assessed as a possible public health crisis of international concern (PHEIC), an official told Reuters. A WHO determination that an epidemic constitutes a global health crisis – as it did with COVID or Ebola – would help accelerate research and funding to contain disease.
“It’s always being considered, but there is still no emergency committee (on monkeypox),” said Mike Ryan, director of the WHO’s health crisis program, at the agency’s annual meeting in Geneva.
However, experts say it is unlikely that the WHO will soon reach such a conclusion, as monkeypox is a known threat that the world has the tools to fight. Discussing whether setting up an emergency committee, the body that recommends declaring PHEIC, is just part of the agency’s routine response, WHO officials said.
Cases of smallpox worldwide
List of countries that have so far reported suspected or confirmed cases:
• Mexico confirmed first case on Saturday
• Ireland confirmed its first case on Saturday.
• Australia’s first case was reported on May 20
• Austria confirmed its first case on May 22.
• Belgium detected two cases on May 20.
• The Czech Republic detected its first case on May 24.
• Denmark confirmed a second case on May 24, a day after the first.
• Finland confirmed its first case on May 27.
• The number of confirmed cases in France rose to five on May 25.
• Germany confirmed three cases, with the first filed on May 20.
• Italy confirmed nine cases before May 26. It detected its first case on May 19.
• The Netherlands reported its first case on May 20. It later confirmed “several” more patients, without saying the exact number.
• Portugal confirmed 16 new cases on May 27, bringing the total to 74.
• Slovenia confirmed its first case on May 24.
• Spain confirmed 25 new cases on May 26, bringing the total to 84.
• Sweden confirmed its first case on May 19.
• Switzerland reported its first confirmed case on May 21.
• The UK detected 14 new cases in England on 24 May, bringing the total number of identified cases to 70.
• Israel confirmed its first case on May 21.
• UAE detected its first case on May 24, state news agency WAM reported.
• Argentina reported its first suspected case on May 23.
• Canada reported 10 new infections on May 27, bringing its total to 25.
• The United States confirmed nine more cases in seven states on May 26. The total number of infections is 11 since the first infection was discovered on May 18.
Eckerle called for the WHO to urge countries to put in place more coordinated and strict containment measures even without a declaration of emergency. She worries that talk of the virus being mild, as well as the availability of vaccines and treatments in some countries, “may lead to lazy behavior by public health authorities.” NOT THE SAME AS COVID More than 300 suspected and confirmed cases of monkeypox, usually a mild disease that spreads through close contact, causing flu-like symptoms and a characteristic rash, were reported this month.
Most have been in Europe rather than in the Central and West African countries where the virus is endemic. No deaths were reported in the current outbreak.
However, global health officials have expressed alarm over the growing boom in non-endemic countries. The WHO said it expects numbers to rise as surveillance increases.
Monkeypox can last in the body for 10 weeks: Study
Monkeypox virus can last in the body for 10 weeks, even after the narrative rash has disappeared, according to a retrospective study published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, APP reported. The finding, led by a team of researchers from Liverpool University Hospitals, is based on an analysis of the UK’s seven previous cases, which were dropped between 2018 and 2021.
According to the investigation, one of the seven previous cases in the UK – a man in his 40s who caught a smallpox in Nigeria before being hospitalized in the UK – still tested positive 76 days after the first illness, the Daily Mail reported. The man, who was not identified, received the clearing and was sent home from hospital a few weeks after being hit with the virus.
Six weeks later, for the first time since his illness, his virus returned, doctors said.
“We make the same mistake”
Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, wrote on Twitter that smallpox was different from SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus, but “we make some of the same mistakes when it comes to reacting decisively with the tools at hand. . ” On Friday, the WHO reiterated that the smallpox virus could be detected by measures including rapid detection and isolation of cases and contact tracking.
People who are infected – and in some cases their close contacts – are advised to isolate for 21 days, but it is not clear to what extent people would adhere to such a long time away from work or other engagements. Eckerle said the laboratory capacity to test for monkeypox is also not widely established, which means that a quick diagnosis can be difficult.
MOHAP TIPS FOR AVOIDING THE DISEASE:
• In light of international reports of recorded cases of transmission due to sexual activity, it is recommended to avoid unprotected sex.
• Avoid physical contact with infected individuals and do not share personal items such as towels or sheets.
• Wear gloves and the necessary personal protective equipment when caring for confirmed Monkeypox patients.
• Wash your hands regularly.
• If you have non-vegetarian food, make sure it is well cooked.
• Wear protective gloves and clothing when approaching sick animals.
Mass vaccination is not considered necessary, but some countries, including the United Kingdom and France, offer vaccines to health care workers and close contacts.
Other experts say the current response is proportionate and that assessing monkeypox as a global health crisis and declaring PHEIC would be inappropriate at this stage.
“This is reserved for threats with the highest level of risk based on infection, severity and international risk of escalation,” said Dale Fisher, president of the Global Epidemic Alert and Response Network (GOARN) and a professor of medicine in Singapore.
Beyond labels, experts say the most important lesson of the last two years is that preventing pandemics after they start spreading is too late.
“It’s always disappointing when the world wakes up to a new disease only when it hits high-income countries,” said Piero Olliaro, a professor of poverty-related infectious diseases at Oxford University and an expert on smallpox.
To prepare for pandemics, “you have to do that where the diseases are now,” he said.
Countries should take the right measures: WHO
The World Health Organization said on Friday that countries need to take the right measures to easily contain Monkeypox cases and also share data on their vaccine stocks.
“We don’t know the extent of the disease. But as I said, we as a country should be more vigilant so that we can detect more cases. We think that if we take the right action now, we can probably contain this. That’s why we are holding this briefing today and we are trying to raise awareness because we are at the very, very beginning and we have a good window of opportunity to stop broadcasting now, “said Sylvie Briand, WHO Director-General for Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness.
On the risk to the community spread, she said, “We are afraid it will spread in the community but at the moment it is very difficult to assess this risk.”
“We have a few cases in many countries over 20 in a few days and we also have a lot of ignorance about this disease because we don’t know if this unusual situation is due to a virus change. that the strain is no different from the strain we can find in endemic countries and it is probably more due to a change in human behavior.But we are also researching this and trying to understand the origin of this sudden outbreak of monkeypox in non-endemics. countries, “said Sylvie Briand on the spread of monkeypox in non-endemic countries.
“There’s also a lot of uncertainty about the future and this disease because we don’t know if this distribution will stop. What we’ve seen in endemic countries as usual, we have self-limiting outbreaks, and so we hope it will be exactly the same. with the current one, “she added.
According to WHO, Monkeypox is usually a self-limiting disease and typically lasts 2 to 4 weeks. It can be severe in children, pregnant women or people with immune suppression due to other conditions. Incubation is usually 6 to 13 days but can be longer than 5 to 21 days.
Typical symptoms include feverish headache, muscle aches and back pain and fatigue and swollen lymph nodes and then it is followed by rashes and or lesions.
Inputs from Reuters, AFP, ANI and APP