“International health emergencies” are no longer anyone’s business: Europe is facing monkeypox

"International health emergencies" are no longer anyone's business: Europe is facing monkeypox

The WHO on Saturday declared the epidemic caused by monkeypox, or monkeypox, a public health emergency of international concern. This implies that the international organization raises the alert for this disease to the maximum.

The WHO decision.
The decision was not taken unanimously but since this Saturday the epidemic caused by this virus has reached the maximum alert level among those managed by the WHO. Despite the urgency of this classification, the risk of this disease is “moderate” even at a global level, according to the agency, with Europe being the only “high” risk region.

The disease situation.
Precisely in Europe, 80% of the 16,000 detected cases of this disease are concentrated. This is despite the fact that it is not endemic to this continent.

As of Saturday, cases had been recorded in 72 countries, causing five deaths (three in Nigeria and two in the Central African Republic). In terms of caseload, four of the five countries with the highest caseload are European (Spain, Germany, UK and France).

In its statement, WHO divided countries into four groups to issue its recommendations. The first two relate to the epidemiological situation in the country, group one to those countries where there have been no cases recently, and the second to countries where there have been. The third group refers to countries where the disease is endemic and the fourth to countries with manufacturing capacity for the manufacture of medicinal products for the disease.

For countries like Spain, where there are active outbreaks, it is about protecting vulnerable groups such as immunocompromised people, strengthening laboratory capacities, tracing the contacts of infected people or establishing protocols for clinical management and disease prevention, among other things.

Second meeting about it.
This decision is made on the second try. The first meeting to decide whether to declare the alert took place exactly a month earlier, on June 23, and then the WHO decided against that classification. At the time, the responsible committee considered it premature to decide on the measure.

The situation of monkeypox in Spain.
Spain leads the number of registered cases of monkeypox. According to the latest data from the Department of Health’s Center for the Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies, 3,125 cases have been identified as of July 19.

1,378 of the cases in Spain were identified in the Community of Madrid, giving an incidence of 204.1 cases per million inhabitants in the region. Most of the cases are linked to “relationship histories in a risky sexual context,” according to the report.

The monkeypox virus.
The disease is caused by a virus of the genus orthopox viruswhich is also the cause of common or human smallpox (Variola Viruses). The high vaccination rates that enabled smallpox to be eradicated are believed to have prevented the spread of its simian variant. However, after the disappearance of the human variant, vaccination was discontinued (1980) and the level of protection has since fallen.

Monkeypox is generally a mild illness with symptoms lasting between two and four weeks, although they can progress to serious illness. The fatality rate has been around 3% to 6%, although this number is lower in this latest outbreak as it also affects developed countries with greater health capacities.

It is a virus that can be transmitted from animals to humans or between humans. This last transmission route can occur with “close contact with secretions from the respiratory tract or skin lesions of an infected person,” explains the WHO. It can also occur through contaminated objects or even through prolonged contact through respiratory droplets.

The symptoms.
The disease has an incubation period of between six and 13 days, although in some cases it can vary in both upper and lower limits. The symptoms can be classified according to the stage of development of the disease.

In a first stage, these are fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, muscle pain and lack of energy. At a second stage, the disease is characterized by the appearance of a rash on the skin. This usually focuses primarily on the face and extremities.

Although the emergence of this disease has been overshadowed in recent months, international health authorities remain vigilant. It is difficult to predict how the disease will develop, but the knowledge gained will certainly be useful in the future.

image | NIH/NAID, Flickr

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