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Factbox: The WHO's highest level of alert is a health emergency

Image: Reuters  Berita 24 English - Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) will meet on Thursday to decide if monkeypox is a glob...


Image: Reuters 

Berita 24 English - Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) will meet on Thursday to decide if monkeypox is a global emergency, which is the highest level of alert.

Only six of these kinds of emergencies have been declared before: COVID-19 (2020), the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2019), the Zika virus (2016), polio (2014), the Ebola outbreak in West Africa (2014), and the H1 virus that caused a flu pandemic in 2009. (2009).

WHO doesn't declare pandemics, but in March 2020, it started calling COVID-19 a pandemic. Even though WHO had already declared an emergency, that was when many governments started to take real steps to try to stop the disease, which was far too late to make a difference.

Other outbreaks, like yellow fever in Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2016, were looked at by the WHO's committee, but they did not meet the criteria: an unusual event that is spreading internationally and needs cooperation between countries.

The declaration is mostly meant to get people's attention. It does not officially open up funding or new measures, but it can give WHO's advice and what countries do more weight. The recommendation comes from a group of experts, but the Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, makes the final call.

Here's how it works:

COVID-19

Recent estimates from WHO say that the COVID-19 pandemic may have killed around 15 million people.

The U.N. agency called it an emergency in January 2020, about a month after Wuhan, China, was the first place to hear about a new coronavirus.

A WHO-appointed independent panel said recently that the WHO should have made the new coronavirus outbreak in China a global emergency sooner.

EBOLA IN THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

In July 2019, the WHO's emergency committee on Ebola said that the outbreak was a global emergency. This was after people in DRC had been fighting the disease for a year in a conflict zone. There were 3,481 cases, and 2,229 people died from it.

ZIKA

In 2016, the WHO said that Zika was a global public health emergency. Since the first case of Zika was found in Brazil in 2015, it has spread to more than 60 countries and territories.

By November 2016, when the WHO said the emergency was over, about 2,300 babies born with microcephaly had been confirmed around the world, most of them in Brazil.

Microcephaly is a virus-related condition that causes abnormally small heads that can cause problems with development.

POLIO

The World Health Organization (WHO) said in 2014 that the return of polio was a public health emergency of international concern. This is still true of the disease that can kill or paralyse children.

Pakistan's inability to stop the disease from spreading led to the global measures, which also affected Syria and Cameroon. From 2012 to 2013, the number of polio cases in Pakistan went from 58 to 93, which is more than a fifth of the world total of 417.

EBOLA IN WEST AFRICA

Between 2013 and 2016, an outbreak of Ebola in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia killed at least 11,300 people. This is more than all other known outbreaks of Ebola put together.

A 2018 study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases found that the spread of hemorrhagic fever cost the economies of these three countries an estimated $53 billion.

SWINE FLU

An international group of scientists says that the 2009 swine flu pandemic killed about 15 times as many people as was confirmed by lab tests at the time. About 284,500 people died as a result of the pandemic.

A study published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal in 2012 said that as many as 579,000 people may have died. WHO made the first count, which put the number at 18,500.

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