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France 24

Monkeypox is already a health emergency: what now?

The question is inevitable, especially after two years of emergency due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A new outbreak of another disease is now being added to the list of health crises, but that does not mean that monkeypox can reach the scale that the coronavirus was. & nbsp; It won’t be a new epidemic, but it certainly is an outbreak that requires our attention: monkeypox was declared a “public health emergency of international importance” by the World Health Organization last Saturday, July 23. There are more than 16,000 cases in 75 different countries, something never seen before for this disease, which has been causing only a few thousand cases in some African regions, where the virus is endemic. This global emergency: first, that the event is “serious, sudden, unusual and unexpected”; that it has “global health implications that transcend national borders” and that it “requires immediate international action.” outside a country. And so the key to last Saturday’s decision fell on “immediate international action” and whether it was time to ask governments around the world for it: for some members of the WHO’s advisory committee, it was too early to pull that lever, while it was too late for others. From those who think the WHO’s decision is “a little late” and “reactive”: “We always hope that there will be many cases to work on,” he points out, remembering in particular the onset of the Covid-19 epidemic. What to do in the face of an outbreak of monkeypox? Hence, for example, the crisis of Zika virus, Ebola, Middle East respiratory syndrome or bird flu. On all these occasions, far from counting the number of cases and deaths to reach a certain threshold of “emergency”, what is important is “alert all countries to be in sync” in responding to the disease and “confronting a global problem”, as expert Carlos Pérez recalls that the most urgent matter now It is the ability to contain this outbreak, for example through available smallpox vaccines that are believed to protect against monkeypox, and to strengthen “global surveillance and coordination”. & nbsp; “In the worst case, we will see a significant increase in infections but not a significant increase in deaths,” the infection specialist sees, because the disease is not very fatal (so far only five deaths this year). Other scientists fear that the virus could become endemic in countries where it was previously absent. & nbsp; Can monkeypox outbreaks be prevented? He sharply criticized the lack of research and interest in zoonotic diseases, those that originate in animals: “Every zoonotic infection should be a cause for concern, but research funding appears to come only when it really affects countries of the world.” . & nbsp; Indeed, African epidemiology has been warning for years that monkeypox outbreaks in endemic countries are increasing and that the virus has the potential to spread to other regions. For ‘Nature’, funding for monkeypox and its Orthopoxvirus family was supposed to be reinvigorated in 2017, when an outbreak caused thousands of infections in Nigeria. & nbsp; Now, despite the fact that we have the tools to contain the disease, we are faced with many questions and few answers: The human smallpox vaccine is believed to be effective against monkeypox, but to what extent? Do current smallpox treatments really work for this occasion? What explains the mutations of this virus and how do they affect the current outbreak? Some questions that could have been resolved when the first alarms sounded, but this seems important only now, when 80% of infections occur on the European continent.

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