The World Health Organization has declared the monkeypox outbreak a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern”.
The maximum emergency alert was issued after a WHO committee convened for a second emergency meeting following a global surge of more than 16,000 cases in 75 countries. There have also been five outbreak-related deaths, including three in Nigeria and two in the Central African Republic.
Australia had 41 confirmed cases as of July 19, according to the Australian Department of Health and Care for the Aged (DHAC).
This includes 22 in New South Wales, 15 in Victoria, two in the Australian Capital Territory, one in Queensland and one in South Australia.
At a media briefing early Sunday morning, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that while there is “a clear risk of further international spread”, “the risk of interfering with international traffic remains low for now”.
“WHO assesses the risk of #monkeypox as moderate globally and in all regions except for the European region, where we assess the risk as high,” he said.
“We have an outbreak that has spread rapidly around the world through new modes of transmission that we understand too little about and that meets the criteria for the International Health Regulations.”
Dr. Ghebreyesus also said the outbreak is currently “concentrated among men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners”, but he called against “stigma and discrimination”.
“That means this outbreak can be stopped with the right strategies in the right groups,” he said.
“Therefore, it is important that all countries work closely with communities of men who have sex with men to develop and deliver effective information and services, and to take action that protects both the health, human rights, and dignity of affected communities.”
According to the DHAC, the virus “usually starts with a fever and swollen lymph nodes, and can also include headache, muscle aches, joint pain, and back pain.”
Most patients also experience rashes and lesions, which may occur on one part of the body or the entire body. This includes the mouth, eyes and genitals. The lesions have been described as “the blisters you see with chickenpox, but bigger”.
Symptoms may appear 5–21 days after exposure, but symptoms usually appear within 7–14 days.
Australia also has a vaccine and treatment.
This is the second time in two years that the WHO has declared a global emergency. A warning has now also been issued in connection with the Covid-19 pandemic and the drive to eradicate polio. The same classification was given to the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak and the 2015-2016 Zika virus epidemic.
Originally published as WHO declares monkeypox outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern