from MARIA MACHARIA in Nairobi & EMEKA OKONKWO in Abuja
NAIROBI, (CAJ News) – IT remains to be seen if the World Health Organisation (WHO) will, in its emergency meeting next Monday, declare monkeypox a global public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) as cases increase rapidly worldwide.
This would be a shift in stance by WHO’s Emergency Committee, which since cases were confirmed in May, had resolved by consensus that the outbreak does not constitute a global emergency.
A similar position was taken at the last such meeting on June 27, when WHO reported that more than 6 000 cases of the disease.
However, the situation is worsening and WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has expressed concern at the scale and spread of the virus.
As of July 7, WHO disclosed a total of 7 892 confirmed cases, including three deaths, were reported from 63 member states (up from 58) in five WHO’s regions.
The deaths were reported from Nigeria (1) and the Central African Republic (2).
Most of the cases were in Europe, constituting 82 percent.
During the last week, there was an increase of 41,6 percent in reported cases globally. During the same period, there was an increase of 82 percent in Africa.
All this points to a global public health emergency, ahead of the WHO’s meeting on July 18.
Then, Ghebreyesus would reconvene the Emergency Committee so it is updated on the current epidemiology and evolution of the monkeypox outbreak and the implementation of countermeasures.
“I’ll bring them (committee) together in the week of 18 July or sooner if needed,” the WHO chief told the media.
The Emergency Committee is made up of international experts who provide technical advice to the WHO Director-General in the context of a PHEIC.
PHEIC is WHO’s highest level of alert.
A PHEIC is defined in the International Health Regulations as “an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response.”
According to WHO, this definition implies a situation that is “serious, sudden, unusual or unexpected.”
It is a situation that “carries implications for public health beyond the affected State’s national border; and may require immediate international action.”
Nigeria, the monkeypox National Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) was activated towards the end of May.
There were 42 new suspected cases reported during the week of (June 20-26) from eighteen (18) states.
Overall, from January 1 to June 26, there have been 204 suspected cases and 62 confirmed cases.
The death mentioned above was of a 40-year-old man with co-morbidity.
“If the current trajectory continues or is sustained, we may match or exceed the peak number of cases seen in 2017 when monkeypox re-emerged,” noted the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) this week.
In 2017, monkeypox re-emerged in Nigeria, 39 years after the last reported case.
From September 4 through December 9, there were some 172 suspected and 61 confirmed cases, including seven deaths.
NCDC agency believes ongoing efforts to strengthen surveillance, increased awareness from global news headlines and its investments in Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) have also contributed in part or whole to this observed increase in cases.
“We will continue to monitor the situation even as we sustain ongoing response efforts,” NCDC assured.
On Monday, South Africa detected its third case of monkeypox.
A 42-year-old man from Switzerland, currently on holiday in Limpopo province, was confirmed to have contracted the viral disease.
This comes after the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) detected the first two cases of monkeypox in June.
“We are calling for calm,” said Limpopo Health Member of the Executive Committee (MEC), Dr Phophi Ramathuba.
“We can confirm that the case is an outpatient, currently isolating and requires no admission,” she added.
This past weekend, WHO launched Africa’s Regional Emergency Hub in Kenya.
Ghebreyesus noted the African region experiences over 100 health emergencies per year, more than any other region in the world.
This includes outbreaks of cholera, yellow fever, meningitis, measles and Ebola.
“The frequency of these events is expected to increase, sadly,” the WHO chief said.
– CAJ News