Just recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Monkeypox a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). The decision was announced Saturday, July 23 after the WHO convened on the issue in its second emergency committee meeting on Thursday, July 21.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been 30,189 recorded cases of Monkeypox. Most of these cases were in newly affected countries that have never before reported cases of the disease, and which have no reported epidemiological links to countries that had previously reported Monkeypox. The disease was mostly prevalent in West and Central Africa.
On par with such developments, EMPHNET held a webinar titled “Monkeypox and its Implications on Global Health Security” on August 9, 2022. This session shed light on the epidemiology of Monkeypox, and the implications of the rise in Monkeypox cases on Global Health Security - In addition, it offered a space for panelists to highlight actions that could be taken to mitigate risks of further disease spread, address its stigma, and raise awareness about the disease.
The session was led by three speakers, namely: Public Health Specialist, Disease Control and Prevention, GHD|EMPHNET, Dr. Ekhlas Hailat; Associate Professor in Global Health at Karolinska Institute, Dr. Ziad El Khatib; and MD (KMU) MSc (AKU), Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) Alumni, FETP Technical Advisor, Dr. Khwaja Mir Islam Saeed. The session was moderated by Disease Control and Prevention Team Leader, GHD|EMPHNET, Dr. Tarek Al-Sanouri.
Dr. Al-Sanouri started the webinar by giving an introduction about Monkeypox and its resemblance to Chickenpox. He stated that Monkeypox is reported in all WHO regions. In addition, he gave a brief introduction about the speakers and their professional backgrounds.
The first speaker in the session, Dr. Hailat, started her presentation “Monkeypox in Animals and the Transition to Humans” by giving examples of some zoonotic diseases and their origins and the importance of the wild animals’ role in the spread of these diseases. She then explained the origin of Monkeypox and its gradual spread from the 1970s to July 23, 2022, when the WHO Director-General declared the escalating global Monkeypox outbreak a PHEIC.
Dr. Hailat then discussed the methods by which Monkeypox is transmitted, the tests made to detect it, and how samples are collected. She also described how the unregulated trade of wildlife meat and products and other mammals can lead to the international spread of diseases such as Monkeypox.
From his end, Dr. El-Khatib talked about “Monkeypox Epidemiological Updates.” In his presentation, he viewed the numbers and demographic statistics relevant to Monkeypox from its first appearance in 1958 to July this year. He also shed a light on the measures taken to control the disease, such as the manufacturing and testing of vaccines in the United States.
Dr. El-khatib also addressed the misconceptions some people might have such as Monkeypox being a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Although the disease is more widely spread among men who have sex with men (MSM), the disease is - transmitted through skin-to-skin contact and contact with bodily fluids.
Dr. El-Khatib also focused on the role of travel history in the spread of Monkeypox in certain countries. He ended his presentation with some questions for the attendees regarding Monkeypox vaccination, transmission, and the stigmatization of the disease.
Following Dr. El-Khatib’s session, Dr. Islam Saeed presented “Epidemiology and Prevention of Monkeypox”. He talked about the case fatality rates for Monkeypox, and which segments of the population are at a higher risk for contracting the disease, identifying children and the immunocompromised as being at a higher risk. Dr. Islam Saeed additionally pointed out the number of cases in 88 countries worldwide and the accumulative trend of the cases, in addition to the number of deaths from July 29, 2022, to August 1, 2022.
The mode of transmission of the Monkeypox virus and the portal of entry was also viewed and explained in Dr. Islam Saeed’s presentation, as he also focused on countermeasures taken against Monkeypox and the vaccination procedures taking place, as well as the recommendations posted according to International Health Regulation (IHR).
At the end of the webinar, a 20-minute question and answer session (Q&A) took place, in which the webinar attendees posed questions for the speakers and discussed a number of topics such as the importance of the One Health Approach in preventing and fighting diseases, the possible causes for the spread of Monkeypox between MSM, the importance of destigmatizing such diseases to make people seek medical help, and the effect of Monkeypox on people who had the smallpox vaccine.
The session saw over 155 attendees from the region and beyond, deeming it another success in the EMPHNET WEBi Series.