Monkey Pox: Why WHO declared it a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC)?

Over 16000 cases of monkeypox have been identified across 75 countries since May 2022. On July 23, World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the monkeypox outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Majority of the cases are being reported in WHO European Region. In India, 4 cases have been reported till date. Currently, most cases are being resolved without hospitalization or any medication. Death rate is also less.

  • The WHO had constituted a committee in June 2022, to study if monkeypox is PHEIC.
  • It reconvened the committee on July 21 and declared the monkey pox a PHEIC.
  • Last time WHO declared an PHEIC was in 2020 for covid-19.
  • Monkeypox disease is caused by monkeypox virus.
  • It involves fever for few days and lymph node swelling and a rash, that can leave scars.
  • It is much less severe than Covid-19 and spreads less easily. This is why, WHO declared an emergency.

Monkeypox was declared PHEIC because, it is fulfilling the first two criteria of an emergency:

  • Spread of the Virus outside West and Central Africa are unusual pattern
  • It has already spread internationally, with cases in 75 countries.

PHEIC vs Pandemic:

PHEIC is different than the pandemic. Pandemic is an epidemic that occur over a wide area and affects large number of people. On the other hand, PHEIC is a carefully defined term. It is defined as a situation that is under control, but has potential to grow out of control. Till date, only 6 PHEICs have been declared including Zika, Ebola and Covid-19.

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