The World Health Organization said the expanding monkeypox outbreak in more than 70 countries is an “extraordinary” situation that now qualifies as a global emergency, a declaration that could spur further investment in treating the once-rare disease and worsen the scramble for scarce vaccines.

What

  1. WHO previously declared emergencies for public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak, the Zika virus in Latin America in 2016 and the ongoing effort to eradicate Polio?
  2. The emergency declaration mostly serves as a plea to draw more global resources and attention to an outbreak. Past announcements had mixed impact, given that the U.N. health agency is largely powerless in getting countries to act.
  3. To date, monkeypox deaths have only been reported in Africa, where a more dangerous version of the virus is spreading, mainly in Nigeria and Congo.
  4. In Africa, monkeypox mainly spreads to people from infected wild animals like rodents, in limited outbreaks that typically have not crossed borders.
  5. In Europe, North America and elsewhere, however, monkeypox is spreading among people with no links to animals or recent travel to Africa.

Flashback

  1. Monkeypox is a zoonosis, that is, a disease that is transmitted from infected animals to humans. According to the WHO, cases occur close to tropical rainforests inhabited by animals that carry the virus.
  2. Monkeypox virus infection has been detected in squirrels, Gambian poached rats, dormice, and some species of monkeys.
  3. Human-to-human transmission is, however, limited — the longest documented chain of transmission is six generations, meaning the last person to be infected in this chain was six links away from the original sick person.
  4. It is important to emphasise that monkeypox does not spread easily between people and the overall risk to the general public is very low.
  5. Transmission, when it occurs, can be through contact with bodily fluids, lesions on the skin or on internal mucosal surfaces, such as in the mouth or throat, respiratory droplets and contaminated objects.