Experts advise in Geneva: monkeypox – WHO examines the health emergency

Status: 06/23/2022 09:07 a.m

Because of the monkeypox, the WHO has convened the emergency committee to examine whether it declares an international health emergency. There are similar initial difficulties as in 2020, says a Geneva virologist.

By Kathrin Hondl, ARD Studio Geneva

A handwritten note with warning triangles in neon letters hangs on the glass door of the high-security laboratory at the University Hospital in Geneva: “Cleaning staff no entry – monkeypox”. New samples from suspected cases from Switzerland are examined here every day. Ascending trend.

Virologist Isabella Eckerle heads the Geneva Center for Novel Viral Diseases. She suspects a high number of unreported cases: because those infected often have symptoms that hardly resemble the pictures in medical textbooks.

“Difficult to see the falls”

“The problem is that so far we have mainly known the disease from Africa, that it is a virus that we have not previously known in our regions,” says Eckerle. “That means, of course, you first have to think about the fact that a skin lesion can be triggered by monkeypox.”

Eckerle says: “The combination of all these factors has made it more difficult to recognize these cases in the last few weeks and months, maybe even years.”

Need for action in the diagnosis

Christian Lindmeier from the World Health Organization (WHO) also sees the greatest need for action in diagnosing and generally recognizing possible monkeypox infections – regardless of whether the international experts on the WHO Emergency Committee recommend declaring an international health emergency or not.

“Red doesn’t mean that the catastrophe is beating us, and green doesn’t mean that we don’t have an issue with it at all,” said Lindmeier. “It is important that all countries test.” So far, monkeypox has mainly become visible in men who have sex with men.

“But it can really affect anyone,” says Lindmeier. “In African countries where monkeypox is endemic, infants have died from monkeypox. That’s the serious part – it can be contracted by anyone.”

Environmentally stable viruses

Unlike the corona virus, monkeypox can also be transmitted through shared things – for example bed linen or towels.

“Because these viruses are relatively stable in the environment,” explains virologist Eckerle. “That means they can survive outside the body for a relatively long time. You can also get infected through shared objects in the same household.”

New challenges

The good news is that most infections are currently relatively mild, says Eckerle. Experiences and structures of corona pandemic containment could also be used.

But she also sees the health systems facing new challenges: “It’s just another new pathogen. Until recently, we didn’t have any commercial tests at all. That means it’s still something that’s going on in special laboratories at the moment.”

“We actually had the same problems at the beginning as with SARS-Coronavirus2 – that you want to validate the tests, that you want to exchange positive controls between laboratories,” says Eckerle. “You have the same initial difficulties as we had in January 2020.”

The Geneva virologist Isabella Eckerle

Image: Kathrin Hondl

More than 2100 confirmed cases

Every day new infections or suspected cases are reported from different countries. There are now more than 2,100 confirmed cases in 42 countries worldwide.

There are mainly three criteria that have to be met in order to declare an international health emergency because of monkeypox – like Corona – says WHO spokesman Lindmeier: “One is unusual spread. The other is a risk of international spread. And that The last thing would be that there needs to be an internationally coordinated response to the whole thing.”

“If these three questions are answered with a clear yes, then there is the possibility of declaring a health emergency,” said Lindmeier.

There are already vaccines

A potentially crucial difference from the early days of the Covid 19 pandemic is that there are already effective vaccines against monkeypox. However, they should be available to everyone who needs them. And indeed all over the world.

“There are vaccines. And of course it’s important to distribute them fairly,” says Lindmeier. “It is not important to vaccinate the entire population here – so what we know about Covid at the moment is certainly not necessary. At the moment it is important to protect specific groups of the population and of course also nursing staff. The vaccine, that is available in the world, also to be distributed fairly and not en masse in one area.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.