Experts call for more action amid monkeypox outbreak

STORY: Harun Tulunay, a sexual health activist who is also HIV-positive, recovered from an unusually severe bout of monkeypox in London.

Outside Africa, where monkeypox is endemic, the viral disease has been rapidly spreading, mainly through sex between men.

The World Health Organisation declared it a global health emergency over the weekend.

"I remember clearly that I cried on the phone to her (a nurse) saying that I think I'm going to die because I can't eat, I can't drink. I can't even swallow my own spit."

Though it can cause extremely painful lesions for some, the disease is generally mild and can pass without the need for intensive treatment.

But access to existing treatment and vaccines has been difficult.

And awareness has been low.

The WHO label - a public health emergency of international concern - could unlock funding to collaborate on sharing vaccines and treatments.

And health experts say, it’s now crucial to play catch up.

“It's clear that we're behind the curve in responding to the outbreak. And we need to up our response effort to try and get our arms around it.”

"What really matters is going forward, what can this declaration do and how can it really gather international support and strengthen and accelerate the response to the unfolding epidemic around the world."

For the non-profit group Test Postive Aware Network, or TPAN, the stepped-up response couldn’t come sooner.

On Monday, it hosted a monkeypox vaccination drive in Chicago, Illinois.

But dozens were turned away, according to CEO Kara Eastman, because the group didn’t have enough resources.

“Last Monday, we had over 200 people lined up around the building and we only had 100 doses of vaccine. That’s the same today, we had a lot of people come, a lot of people line up early. Unfortunately, had to turn some people away because we only have 100 to give out.”

So far this year, there have been more than 16,000 cases of monkeypox in more than 75 countries.

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