Monkeypox a global emergency: 4 updates

The World Health Organization's director-general on July 23 declared monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern — its highest alert level — after the agency's emergency committee was unable to reach a consensus. 

It was the second time the emergency committee met to determine whether the monkeypox outbreak constituted a global emergency. In June, when it first ruled the outbreak did not constitute the designation, global cases were just over 3,000. Cases have since surpassed more than 16,000 across 75 countries. WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared a global emergency after the committee was unable to reach a consensus during its most recent meeting, describing the global risk as "moderate" and citing the risk of further international spread. 

"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 the International Health Regulations," Dr. Tedros said in a news release. "For all of these reasons, I have decided that the global monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern." 

The outbreak remains concentrated among men who have sex with men. "That means this is an outbreak that can be stopped with the right strategies in the right groups," Dr. Tedros said. 

As of July 22, nearly 3,000 cases had been confirmed in the U.S. In response to whether HHS would invoke its own public health emergency, the White House's COVID-19 response coordinator, Ashish Jha, MD, said it is "something" the agency may do. 

"It really depends on what does that [declaration] allow us to do," Dr. Jha told CBS News on July 24. "We have ramped up vaccinations, ramped up treatments, ramped up testing, and we're going to continue to look at all sorts of policy options. Right now, we think we can get our arms around this thing, but obviously, if we need further tools, we will invoke them as we need." 

Three more updates: 

1. The CDC on July 22 confirmed two children are among those in the U.S. who have contracted monkeypox. Both children are connected "to individuals who come from the men who have sex with men community," said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD. "When we have seen those cases in children, they have generally been what I call 'adjacent' to the community most at risk." 

2. The U.S. has capacity for 80,000 tests per week, up from 6,000 initially. Dr. Jha told CBS News. HHS will release hundreds of thousands more doses of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine in the coming weeks. The agency had distributed more than 300,000 doses to states as of July 22. As far as treatment is concerned, the CDC on July 22 said it is working with the FDA to make it easier to prescribe Tpoxx — the antiviral being used to treat monkeypox — after complaints from physicians over the lengthy process required to obtain a prescription. 

3. Many monkeypox patients may experience a single lesion or sore in their mouth or on their genitals, according to the largest case study on monkeypox to date, published July 21 in the New England Journal of Medicine. The findings differ from the current medical definitions of monkeypox and indicate "current international case definitions need to be expanded" to help healthcare providers better recognize the infection and prevent them from confusing it with common STIs, researchers said

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