The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently convened its emergency committee to consider whether the monkeypox outbreak warrants declaring a global emergency.
About ‘monkeypox’ –
- Monkeypox is a rare zoonotic (disease that spreads from animals to humans) viral disease belonging to the Orthopoxvirus genus in the Poxviridae family, the same virus family as smallpox.
- Monkeypox was first discovered in animals in 1958 when two outbreaks occurred in captive monkey colonies kept for research purposes. Hence, the name ‘monkeypox’.
- People with monkeypox often experience symptoms like fever, body aches and a rash. Most recover within weeks without needing medical care.
- There is currently no specific treatment for monkeypox. However, the Vaccinia vaccine, which was used against smallpox, had shown 85% efficacy in monkeypox prevention.
About the ‘International Health Regulations’ of 2005 –
- The IHR are an instrument of international law that is legally-binding on 196 countries, including the 194 WHO Member States.
- While disease outbreaks are often unpredictable and require a range of responses, the IHR provides an overarching legal framework to deal with it.
- The framework defines countries’ rights and obligations in handling public health events and emergencies that have the potential to cross borders.
- It requires countries to designate a National IHR Focal Point for communications with WHO, to establish and maintain core capacities for surveillance and response.
- The Regulations also outline the criteria to determine whether or not a particular event constitutes a “public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC)”.
- If a PHEIC (highest level of alert declared by the WHO) is declared, WHO develops and recommends the critical health measures for implementation by Member States during such an emergency.
- The responsibility for implementing the IHR rests upon all States Parties that are bound by the Regulations and on WHO.
- The goal of country implementation is to limit the spread of health risks to neighbouring countries and to prevent unwarranted travel and trade restrictions.
- WHO plays the coordinating role in IHR implementation and helps countries to build capacities.
- The IHR requires that all countries have the ability to detect, assess and report and respond to public health risks and emergencies.
- Declaring monkeypox to be a global emergency would mean the U.N. health agency considers the outbreak to be an “extraordinary event” and that the disease is at risk of spreading across even more borders.
- It would also give monkeypox the same distinction as the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing effort to eradicate polio.