By Spy Uganda
The World Health Organization will convene an emergency committee on Thursday next week over the skyrocketing monkeypox cases.
That is the highest level of warning issued by the UN agency, which currently applies only to the COVID-19 pandemic and polio.
There have been 1,600 confirmed and 1,500 suspected cases of monkeypox this year and 72 deaths, WHO said, in 39 countries, including those where the virus usually spreads.
Monkeypox is endemic in parts of Africa but there have been more cases both in those countries and the rest of the world in recent months. The virus causes flu-like symptoms and skin lesions and spreads through close contact.
It is thought to be fatal in around three to six per cent of cases, according to WHO, although no deaths have yet been reported in the outbreak outside Africa. The majority of deaths this year have been in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that it was time to consider stepping up the response because the virus is behaving unusually, more countries are affected and there is a need for international coordination.
“We don’t want to wait until the situation is out of control,” added WHO’s emergencies director for Africa, Ibrahima Socé Fall.
The committee meeting next week will be made up of global experts, but the WHO director-general makes the ultimate decision on whether the outbreak merits the label of public health emergency of international concern, known as a PHEIC.