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Monkeypox Now Global Health Emergency, Europe at High Risk

By designating monkeypox a “public health emergency of international concern,” the WHO triggered a coordinated international response. Credit: Creative Commons (CC1.0)

The World Health Organization has labeled monkeypox a global health emergency, the highest alert level, as the virus continues to spread worldwide. The risk of monkeypox is still considered moderate globally, except in Europe, where WHO officials say the risk is high.

Greece reported its first case of monkeypox on June 8th, and it currently has twenty reported cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US. The man who tested positive had previously traveled to Portugal, Greek officials said. He was hospitalized at the Andreas Syngros Hospital in Athens.

The WHO’s designation of monkeypox as a “public health emergency of international concern” triggers a coordinated international response and could free up funding to collaborate on sharing vaccines and treatments.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the announcement on Saturday. The previous global health emergency designation WHO issued was for the outbreak of the coronavirus. Polio also still carries that designation.

“Although I am declaring a public health emergency of international concern, for the moment this is an outbreak that is concentrated among men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners,” Tedros said. “Stigma and discrimination can be as dangerous as any virus,” he said.

The most common symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, low energy, and swollen lymph nodes, according to a WHO fact sheet. Symptoms are followed or accompanied by the development of a rash which can last for two to three weeks. Symptoms may be overcome naturally or with supportive care, such as medication for pain and fever.

People remain infectious until all lesions have crusted over, the scabs have fallen off, and a new layer of skin has formed underneath.

Monkeypox Infection Risk Low Globally Except in Europe

The WHO fact sheet advises that anyone with symptoms resembling monkeypox or anyone who has been in contact with someone who has monkeypox call or visit a health care provider and seek medical advice.

Tedros likely decided to back the highest alert level due to concerns about escalating case rates and a short supply of vaccines and treatments, Reuters reported.

There are 16,800 confirmed cases of monkeypox worldwide in seventy-four countries. The five countries with the highest number of infections include Spain, the US, Germany, the UK, and France These account for 71 percent of all cases, according to the CDC.

In the most recent outbreak, the viral disease outside of Africa where it is endemic has been spreading chiefly amongst men who have sex with men, Reuters reported.

Cases of monkeypox have jumped since the end of June, when there were only about three thousand reported cases worldwide.

The US reported the first two cases of the disease in children on Friday, officials said.

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