Infectious disease experts charge WHO on monkeypox

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Some leading infectious disease experts are calling for swifter action from global health authorities to contain a growing smallpox outbreak that has spread to at least 20 countries.

They argue that governments and the World Health Organization (WHO) cannot repeat the initial mistakes of the Covid-19 pandemic that delayed the identification of cases, helping the virus to spread.

While smallpox is not as transmissible or dangerous as the coronavirus, according to these scientists, there is a need for clearer guidance on how people infected with smallpox should isolate themselves, more explicit advice on how to protect people who are at risk, and better testing. and contact tracing.

“If this becomes endemic (in more countries), we will have another complicated disease and a lot of difficult decisions to make,” said Isabelle Eckerle, a professor at the Geneva Center for Emerging Viral Diseases in Switzerland.

The WHO is considering whether the outbreak should be assessed as a potential Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), an official told Reuters.

The WHO’s determination that an outbreak represents a global health emergency — like Covid or Ebola — would help accelerate research and funding to contain the disease.

“It’s always under consideration, but no emergency committee yet (on smallpox),” WHO director of health emergency programs Mike Ryan said during the agency’s annual meeting in Geneva.

However, experts say the WHO is unlikely to come to that conclusion anytime soon because smallpox is a known threat, and the world has the tools to tackle it. Discussing whether to organize emergency committees, the body that recommends public health emergencies, is just part of the agency’s normal response, WHO officials said.

Eckerle charged that the WHO encourages countries to adopt more coordinated and strict isolation measures, even without an emergency declaration. She worries that talk of the virus being mild, as well as the availability of vaccines and treatments in some countries, “could lead to lazy behavior by public health authorities.”

Source: CNN Brasil

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