By Raymond Wolfe
World Health Organization (WHO) director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced on Saturday that he has declared the international monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency.
“I have decided that the global monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern,” the United Nations health agency chief said at a press conference. “WHO’s assessment is that the risk of monkeypox is moderate globally and in all regions, except in the European region where we assess the risk as high,” he added.
Since May, more than 16,000 confirmed cases of monkeypox and five deaths have been reported in 75 countries, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up from around 3,000 cases reported by late June.
Tedros noted that he acted as a “tiebreaker” after a WHO expert committee on Thursday failed to reach a consensus about whether the outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern, the U.N. agency’s highest alert.
It was the first time that a WHO chief unilaterally declared a global emergency, the Associated Press reported.
‘Concentrated among men who have sex with men’
Tedros also acknowledged that the outbreak remains concentrated almost entirely among homosexual males.
“Although I am declaring a public health emergency of international concern, for the moment this is an outbreak that is concentrated among men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners,” he said.
Earlier this week, WHO monkeypox expert Dr. Rosamund Lewis revealed that 99 percent of monkeypox cases outside of Africa have been reported in males, and that 98 percent of those cases have been reported in men who practice homosexuality.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine last month found that sexual activity accounts for the transmission of around 95 percent of monkeypox cases and that 41 percent of people infected with disease also have HIV.
Monkeypox is similar to smallpox, but with milder symptoms that include fever, headaches, muscle pain, chills, and eventually rashes, followed by lesions and scabs. Transmission typically occurs through direct contact with the rashes or bodily fluids of infected people or by touching items contaminated by infectious skin or fluids, according to the CDC.
The CDC has reported more than 2,800 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the U.S., including at least two in children.
Both of those two children “are traced back to individuals who come from the men-who-have-sex-with-men community,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said on Friday, sparking questions about how they became infected.
Biden’s CDC Director:
“We have seen 2 cases that have occurred in children. Both of those children are traced back to individuals who come from the men who have sex with men community—the gay men community”
Is anyone asking how children got Monkeypox from this “community?”
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) July 23, 2022
The CDC said on Saturday that it is “supportive” of the WHO’s declaration.
The monkeypox outbreaks in North America and Europe first reported in May are believed to have originated with two LGBT raves in Spain and Belgium. The virus was not previously known to spread widely among humans or cause significant outbreaks other than in Africa, where it has been endemic for decades, according to the Associated Press.
“In the U.S., some experts have speculated whether monkeypox might be on the verge of becoming an entrenched sexually transmitted disease in the country, like gonorrhea, herpes and HIV,” the Associated Press related.
“The cases we are seeing are just the tip of the iceberg,” Dr. Albert Ko, a professor of public health and epidemiology at Yale University, told the outlet. “The window has probably closed for us to quickly stop the outbreaks in Europe and the U.S., but it’s not too late to stop monkeypox from causing huge damage to poorer countries without the resources to handle it.”
Monkeypox, far from the first disease to spread primarily through homosexual behavior, underscores the continued health harms of homosexuality. HIV also remains a primarily homosexual disease, with male-to-male sexual contact accounting for 68 percent of new diagnoses in the U.S. in 2020, according to the CDC.
On Friday, the European Medicines Agency approved the smallpox vaccine Imvanex for prevention of monkeypox in the E.U.