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Monkeypox a global health emergency: How to protect yourself

Following a meeting of a committee of experts on Thursday, the monkeypox outbreak has officially been declared an emergency.

The World Health Organisationv (WHO) has declared its strongest call to action by announcing that the global monkeypox outbreak is a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).

WHO defines a PHEIC 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”.

monkeypox virus
Credit: IANS

WHO has only made this kind of declaration seven times in the last 13 years, the most recent of course being for COVID-19.

The director general for the organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom said at a recent press conference that the committee met on Thursday to review the data but was unable to come to an agreement. He has since taken it upon himself to decide on behalf of the committee.

“In short, we have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission about which we understand too little and which meets the criteria in the international health regulations,” he said. 

“For all of these reasons I have decided that the global monkeypox outbreak represents a global health emergency of international concern.”

The Monkeypox viral infection currently has a clear risk of further international spread.

According to WHO data, so far there have been 16,016 monkeypox cases reported globally. 4,132 of which were only diagnosed in the last week.

The technical lead for monkeypox at the WHO health emergencies programme said: “There’s a lot of work to be don’t.”

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

The most common symptoms reported of the virus are fevers, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, headaches and a sore throat. 

Monkeypox can cause a range of signs and symptoms and while many cases have been mild, other people may develop more serious symptoms.

These common symptoms are usually followed or accompanied by a rash which can last two or three weeks.

The rash can be found on the face, palms of the hands, soles of the feet, eyes, mouth, throat, groin and genital area. People remain infectious until all lesions have fallen off.

How can I avoid getting monkeypox?

As is the way with most viruses, the best way to avoid your risk of catching monkeypox is by limiting close contact with people who have suspected or confirmed monkeypox or with animals that could be infected.

If you suspect you may have monkeypox, you can protect others by isolating and seeking medical advice.

A vaccine has recently been approved for preventing monkeypox which some countries have started implementing for people at risk.

There are also smallpox vaccines that have proven to be helpful when fighting monkeypox. WHO has confirmed that only people who are at risk should be vaccinated and that mass vaccination is not recommended at this time.