The current monkeypox outbreak, which has infected 3,417 people across 42 countries, has on Thursday been declared a pandemic by World Health Network (WHN), a global collaboration of scientific and citizen teams.
The declaration comes ahead of the World Health Organization's (WHO) meeting on Thursday, to decide on their monkeypox outbreak designation.
Citing Monkeypoxmeter, a website which tracks the infection cases in real time, the WHN said there are now 3,417 confirmed monkeypox cases reported across 58 countries, and the outbreak is rapidly expanding across multiple continents.
The WHN has urged immediate action by the WHO and national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention organisations to prevent monkeypox becoming a disaster.
It said even though death rates are much lower than smallpox, unless concerted global action is taken to curb the ongoing spread, the infection will cause millions toA die and render many blind and disabled.
"The WHO needs to urgently declare its own Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) -- the lessons of not declaring (Covid-19) a PHEIC immediately in early January 2020 should be remembered as a history lesson of what acting late on an epidemic can mean for the world," said Eric Feigl-Ding, PhD, Epidemiologist and Health Economist, and co-founder of WHN, in a statement.
"There is no justification to wait for the monkeypox pandemic to grow further. The actions needed now only require clear public communication about symptoms, widely available testing, and contact tracing with very few quarantines. Any delay only makes the effort harder and the consequences more severe," added Yaneer Bar-Yam, PhD, President of New England Complex System Institute and co-founder of WHN.
Until now most cases have been in adults, but any spread among children will lead to much more severe cases and more deaths. Infections of animals, especially rats and other rodents, but also pets, will make it much more difficult to stop. Passively waiting will lead to these harms without any compensating benefit.
Monkeypox is a virus with the potential to cause significant harm to the public including acute painful illness that may require hospitalisation, and may result in death, skin scarring, blindness, and other long-term disability. The most vulnerable to severe disease include children, pregnant people, and people who are immunocompromised.