On Saturday (23 July), the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).
This is the 7th time that WHO has declared a PHEIC since 2009, with the most recent being for Covid-19 before it was declared a pandemic. With this, it means that WHO now views the monkeypox outbreak as a significant threat to global health and that a coordinated international response is needed to prevent the virus from spreading further and escalating into a pandemic.
In a statement, WHO said around 74 countries have reported 16,800 confirmed cases of the viral disease, according to a tally published this week by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As for Asia, there are over half a dozen countries that have reported confirmed cases too, with Singapore being one of them.
Singapore confirmed six cases on 14 July, and Thailand confirmed its first case on 21 July. Meanwhile, India has reported 2, and Australia has the highest confirmed cases at 42.
On the other hand, Spain recorded the most confirmed cases at 3,125, followed by the US at 2,890, Germany at 2,268, and the UK at 2,208, the CDC tally shows.
Meanwhile, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus explained the monkeypox outbreak spreads via close contact and is driven overwhelming by sex between men.
He then emphasised that anyone can catch monkeypox regardless of sexual orientation. “Stigma and discrimination can be as dangerous as any virus,” Tedros said.
Symptoms of the disease begin to appear 7 to 14 days after exposure and include fever, muscle aches, exhaustion, and a rash that can appear on the body. Symptoms also include pus-filled skin lesions, which can be excruciating.
Meanwhile, global health specialist Dr Khor Swee Kheng said that Malaysians should not overreact to the WHO’s announcement of the outbreak as a global health emergency.
Speaking to The Star, he said Malaysians can capitalise on the lessons we learn from Covid-19 as they remain relevant for monkeypox. “However, Malaysia should not overreact,” he said.