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Monkey Pox declared as ‘Public Health Emergency’

  • Published
    25th Jul, 2022

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the global monkey pox outbreak a 'public health emergency of international concern' (PHEIC).

  • On January 30, 2020, WHO had categorised COVID-19 as a PHEIC, when about 7,500 cases of novel coronavirus were reported.
  • And on March 11 2020, the agency elevated it to 'pandemic.'
  • Now the Monkey pox has declared as PHEIC by WHO.
  • Monkey-pox (MPX) was first discovered in 1958 in colonies of monkeys kept for research, hence the name ‘monkey-pox.’
  • The first human case of monkey-pox was reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 1970.
  • Recently, an ongoing outbreak of the viral disease monkey-pox was confirmed in May 2022.


  • A PHEIC is an ‘extraordinary event’, which constitutes a public health risk to other States through the international spread, and which potentially requires a coordinated international response.
  • International Health Regulations Emergency Committee is made for scrutinizing the global situation.
  • The responsibility of declaring an event as an emergency lies with the Director-General of the WHO and requires the convening of a committee of members.
  • PHEIC comes below the Pandemic situation, declared as a global health concern.

What is Monkey Pox?

  • Monkey-pox (MPX) is a viral zoonotic disease with symptoms similar to smallpox, although with less clinical severity.
  • It is a potentially serious viral illness that typically involves flu-like symptoms, swelling of the lymph nodes, and a rash that includes bumps that are initially filled with fluid before scabbing over.
  • Illness could be confused with a sexually transmitted infection like syphilis or herpes, or chickenpox.

Mode of transmission:

  • Human-to-human transmission is known to occur primarily through large respiratory droplets generally requiring prolonged close contact.
  • It can also be transmitted through direct contact with body fluids or lesion material, and indirect contact with lesion material, such as through contaminated clothing or linens of an infected person.
  • The disease goes through four different phases.
  • The first invasion period, which is between 0-5 days, is characterised by fever, headache and lymph node swelling.
  • The swelling of the lymphnodes is one of the characteristic features of monkey pox and is not observed in similar rash causing diseases like measles and chickenpox.

What causes monkey-pox?

  • It is a rare disease that is caused by infection with the monkey-pox virus.
  • This virus belongs to the Ortho-pox-virus genus.
  • It includes the variola (smallpox) virus as well as the vaccinia virus, which is used in the smallpox vaccine.

What is the mandate to declare a PHEIC?

  • Rising numbers and evidence of person-to-person transmission in a handful of cases outside of China.
  • Greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems, and which are ill-prepared to deal with it.

India’s situation

Case fatality ratio

  • The case fatality ratio of monkey-pox has historically ranged from 0 to 11% in the general population and has been higher among young children.
  • In recent times, the case fatality ratio has been around 3-6%.
  • The first case of monkey pox was confirmed in India after a person who had returned to Kerala from UAE developed symptoms of the disease. His samples were sent to National Virology Institute in Pune which confirmed the disease.

The International Health Regulations (2005)

  • IHR (2005), represents a binding international legal agreement involving 196 countries across the globe, including all the Member States of the WHO.
  • Their aim is to help the international community prevent and respond to acute public health risks that have the potential to cross borders and threaten people worldwide.
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