Learning lessons: on a strategy for monkeypox

The World Health Organization, for the second time in two years, has declared a viral outbreak a public health emergency of international concern (USPPI). With four confirmed cases in India and an estimated 14,500 cases worldwide, the monkeypox outbreaks have sparked international dismay in a world that has yet to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. After a split verdict at the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee meeting – on whether monkeypox deserves to be called a USPPI – it fell to WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, to take a call. A USPPI is only one step away from a “pandemic” classification. Following the declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic on March 11, 2020, the WHO had been criticized for not responding promptly to the threat to public health that the coronavirus pandemic portends. He had labeled the COVID-19 crisis as PHEIC on January 30, 2020, when global cases were around 7,500, about half the currently reported levels for monkeypox. The following February was the pivotal month that forced the WHO to raise threat levels and push the world into territory it hadn’t trodden since the 1918 flu pandemic. monkey is caused by a virus endemic to a few African countries, the world only took notice after it was first reported in the UK on May 6, 2022. Within a month and a half, it has spread to 63 countries. , with Spain, Belgium and the United States – historically not endemic for the virus – beginning to report a spike in cases. In Africa too, transmission has been historically limited and there is uncertainty about the events that caused such a global peak.

Monkeypox, for now, has more visible manifestations such as rashes and blisters and is thought to be overrepresented in men who have sex with men. It is thought to be spread only through close contact and is only fatal for extremely immunocompromised people. The WHO has recommended that countries step up surveillance, scale up public awareness campaigns, that governments strive not to stigmatize the disease, and that health infrastructure be prepared to produce diagnostic kits. The experience of the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that governments implement measures to avoid “panic”, but are often opaque and vague with the information needed to quell it. While the evolution of the monkeypox outbreak is unclear in the coming months, the government must engage in coordinated action with states to accurately summarize and disseminate the extent of the threat. Until now, monkeypox fell under the category of neglected tropical diseases. Related to the eradicated pox virus, monkeypox is believed to have amplified due to reduced immunity against the pox virus. Indian laboratories and biotechnology companies must intensify their research and exploit their arsenal to prepare adequate defenses if the need arises.

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