Global officials call meeting to consider monkeypox public health emergency; FL cases on the rise

Emergency Committee Chair Dr. Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele at the first meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee regarding the multi-country monkeypox outbreak, held at WHO Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Credit: World Health Organization.

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Global health authorities on Thursday announced a second meeting to assess whether the monkeypox disease “constitutes a public health emergency of international concern,” according to the World Health Organization, and Florida continues to see rising monkeypox cases.

The rare disease endemic in several Central and West African countries has expanded to a total of 139 cases across 12 counties in Florida, with most infections in Broward (90) and Miami-Dade (22) counties, according to state health data. In Florida, the state health department previously reported 105 cases of monkeypox in 10 counties.

On the global scale, the World Health Organization had reported in July two new deaths due to monkeypox since its last update, totaling three deaths from the virus from January 1 to July 4, 2022, according to a WHO report. The group held a meeting June 23 on the public health emergency issue and did not declare an emergency. Now, with cases and deaths rising and various health advocates concerned, WHO has set a second meeting on July 21.

Both the WHO and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are monitoring the 2022 monkeypox outbreak.

Oftentimes causing a characteristic rash and other symptoms, the monkeypox virus continues to circulate across the nation and worldwide.

If the agency does declare a public health emergency for monkeypox, health officials “will propose temporary recommendations on how to better prevent and reduce the spread of the disease and manage the global health response,” according to a press release from WHO.

However, the World Health Network, a worldwide coalition of scientists and advocates, has already declared the monkeypox virus a pandemic.

According to WHN, the group “declares the monkeypox outbreak a Public Health Emergency of Global Concern, by which it indicates that this outbreak is not limited to a single country or region and should be addressed by immediate actions taken wherever community transmission is taking place in order to ensure that the least effort is needed and the smallest impact is suffered due to this outbreak.”

In addition, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation has urged “the World Health Organization not to repeat the past mistake of delaying declarations for COVID-19 and immediately declare the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC),” according to a report from Business Wire.

Nationwide, California has seen the most monkeypox cases (161), followed by New York (159) and Illinois (152), according to the latest data from the CDC. There have been 11,068 cases in 65 countries, the CDC reported, as of Thursday afternoon. The number of Florida’s CDC cases is lower than the cases posted by the Florida Department of Health.

WHO has its own data on cases and those may be different from the CDC data.

Meanwhile, the Biden Administration had announced a strategy to combat monkeypox that includes expanding testing capacity using commercial laboratories, as well as other health measures.

On Thursday, the CDC announced that Aegis Sciences began monkeypox testing using the CDC’s orthopoxvirus test at its laboratories in Nashville, Tennessee, according to a CDC press release.

Aegis can accept specimens from any location in the country and expects to perform up to 10,000 tests per week, the CDC noted. Other major commercial laboratories currently performing monkeypox testing include Labcorp, Mayo Clinic Laboratories, and Quest Diagnostics.

CDC officials advise that anyone with a rash that looks like monkeypox should consult with their health care provider about whether to get tested for the disease.

Early data suggest that “gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men make up a high number of cases,” CDC said on its website. However, anyone can become infected with monkeypox if they have been in close contact with someone who has the virus.

“The ability of commercial laboratories to test for monkeypox is an important pillar in our comprehensive strategy to combat this disease,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a written statement Thursday.  “This will not only increase testing capacity but also make it more convenient for providers and patients to access tests by using existing provider-to-laboratory networks.”

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