The World Health Organization issued new guidance this week, designating the monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency and calling for a coordinated global response to the virus.
The WHO last issued such a warning, its highest level of alert, in January 2020 in response to COVID-19. The declaration means the organization has reason to view the outbreak as a global health emergency, which requires an all-hands, organized approach from all member countries around the world in order to mitigate the impact of the virus.
Unlike COVID-19, monkeypox is not easily spread from person to person. It requires physical contact and the transfer of bodily fluids in order to spread, while COVID-19 is largely airborne. The outbreak of monkeypox should be much easier to contain, as it is mostly spread by close bodily contact.
According to experts, the spread of the virus is being driven largely by men who have sex with men. Epidemiologists believe the outbreak began in Western Europe at large gatherings of gay and bisexual men in Europe.
“The finding that 95% of cases may have been transmitted during sex provides reassurance that this outbreak is primarily caused by very close contact and may explain why it’s been largely limited, so far, to dense social networks of men who have sex with men,” said infectious disease expert Dr. Jay K. Varma.
There have been over 16,000 cases of the virus reported since the beginning of 2022 in 70 countries across the globe. The virus is currently largely centered in Europe, where over 80 percent of cases have been reported. Coming in second is North America, where 2,500 cases have been reported across the United States. Africa has reported 5 deaths from the virus so far.
The virus presents as a painful rash causing open lesions on the body. Most patients recover within a few weeks. The WHO’s declaration does not prompt mandated action by any member nations, but does urge all countries to work together to quell the global impact.
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