Monkeypox declared a global emergency as WA’s case count creeps up

Jul 25, 2022, 10:12 AM

Photo from the World Health Organization...

Photo from the World Health Organization

The World Health Organization(WHO) declared on Saturday that monkeypox is now a “public health emergency of international concern” as cases continue to rise rapidly.

Since May, there have been an estimated 16,000 cases identified across more than 60 countries, but so far there have only been five confirmed deaths from the disease.

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“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 international health regulations,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said when announcing the emergency.

In an interview with Dave Ross on Seattle’s Morning News, Dr. Gordon Cohen MD explained that the WHO is now designating the disease as a global emergency mostly because of the large increase in the rate of spread.

“Just a couple of months ago … there were only 100 cases. Now, here we are, a couple of months later, there are 16,000 cases,” Cohen said. “So the rate of spread is increasing rapidly.”

This is the second global public health emergency the WHO has declared in two years, the last one being the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The monkeypox spread is not in danger of reaching the same levels of COVID-19, according to Dr. Cohen: the two are transmitted very differently.

“It’s not going to have the same implications as COVID, and it’s not going to spread with the same rate that COVID did,” Dr. Cohen said. “We already have a vaccine available. There has apparently been some sort of difficulties getting vaccines ramped up, because it was something that we weren’t actively producing in large numbers to deal with this, but there is still a large percentage of the population already been vaccinated against smallpox.”

Monkeypox is quite similar to smallpox, a disease that was eradicated worldwide in 1980. Due to this similarity, the smallpox vaccine received by most Americans born before 1972 is still 80-85% effective.

The spread of monkeypox is spread through close contact with the infected, and was thought to primarily be spread sexually, but new information has come to light that contact with puss from open sores can spread the disease during any close contact.

“If you have these lesions on your skin, and they can be anywhere … they can leave fomites, or little particles of the virus on towels, bedsheets, things like that,” Dr. Cohen said. “So you can have just close contact with somebody, or close contact with the bedding of somebody who has the disease, and pick it up.”

For those that do get infected, the disease has not required many to go to the hospital and is rarely fatal, but it does have a two to four-week recovery time, which could cause workers in many fields to be isolated and away from their jobs.

As the global health response gears up to handle the disease, WHO representatives said they are encouraging countries with large vaccine stockpiles to share and donate vaccines to countries that do not currently have access to vaccines.


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