Health: WHO convenes an emergency committee for monkeypox – Panorama

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebrejesus in Geneva.  Photo: Salvatore Di Nolfi/KEYSTONE/dpa

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebrejesus in Geneva. Photo: Salvatore Di Nolfi/KEYSTONE/dpa

In Germany, the number of cases of monkeypox has risen to more than 200. The EU is buying 110,000 doses of the vaccine, and the WHO is convening emergency committees in a number of countries.

Berlin – Worried about the increasing number of monkeypox cases around the world, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebrejesus has convened an emergency committee for next week.

The commission needs to decide whether – like Corona – it is a “public health emergency of international concern” (PHEIC). The smallpox vaccine is expected to be delivered to Germany on Wednesday (June 14). According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the number of sick patients in Germany rose to almost 230 on Tuesday, but German experts were initially unconcerned when asked.

An emergency committee meeting is scheduled for June 23, the organization and its leader Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced on Tuesday. This type of commission brings together experts who are particularly familiar with the disease in question. The declaration of a state of emergency is the highest level of alert that the WHO can impose. Such a declaration has no direct practical consequences, but it aims to wake up member countries. Since the end of January 2020, a state of emergency has been in effect due to Sars-CoV-2.

As of Tuesday, the WHO has reported more than 1,600 monkeypox cases worldwide and nearly 1,500 suspected cases from 39 countries. 32 of those countries had no known cases before May. The virus has been raging in seven other African countries for decades. So far, 72 deaths have been reported from African countries. WHO is investigating possible deaths from monkeypox in Brazil.

The virus behaves strangely

The WHO’s concerns relate to three areas, Tedros said: The virus is behaving strangely, more and more countries are affected, and therefore a coordinated response is necessary. However, Tedros stressed that emergency committee experts are looking into the problem and have not yet decided whether they think a state of emergency should be declared. “We don’t want to wait until the situation gets out of control,” said WHO expert Ibrahima SocĂ© Fall.

The RKI’s risk assessment in Germany continued on Tuesday: “According to current knowledge, the RKI assesses the risk to the health of the general population in Germany as low.”

“no surprise” numbers

Virologist Gerd Sutter of the LMU Institute of Infectious Medicine and Zoonoses in Munich said when asked that the numbers in this country were “not a surprise” and “not scary”. According to current knowledge, the virus is, as expected, transmitted practically only through direct contact. He described the rate of expansion as “relatively slow.” With vaccination of contact persons or specific target groups “it should still be possible to limit the outbreak”, he expects.

There are still isolated transmissions, “but the epidemic is not developing an exponentially increasing number of cases,” said Timo Ulrichs, a global health expert at Akkon University of Human Sciences in Berlin. A sexually transmitted infection spreads more slowly than an airborne infection. Other experts have recently pointed out many differences between monkeypox and the corona pandemic.

40,000 doses of smallpox vaccine

The Federal Ministry of Health expects to deliver 40,000 doses of the measles vaccine, which can be used against monkeypox, by Wednesday. The federal government is making the vaccine available to federal states, a ministry spokesman said. The Standing Committee on Vaccination (Stiko) announced last week that the drug will be recommended to certain groups, such as contacts of infected people. The first evidence of monkeypox in this country became known a good three weeks ago.

Due to the current risky situation, the WHO does not consider mass vaccinations necessary, according to a technical guide from Tuesday. Vaccines developed against smallpox, which was eradicated in 1980, may offer some protection against monkeypox, but until now there have been almost no studies on this. The WHO has called on all countries to share smallpox vaccine supplies equally with others.

Monkeypox is considered a less serious disease than smallpox, which has been eradicated since 1980. Experts warned of the spread of the virus, for example at upcoming festivals and parties. According to the RKI, the incubation period is 5 to 21 days. Symptoms (including fever and skin rash, for example) usually go away on their own within a few weeks, but can lead to medical complications and, in very rare cases, death in some people.


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