WHO declares monkeypox a global health emergency

STORY: “I have decided that the global monkeypox outbreak represents a global health emergency of international concern.”

It’s a label that’s only been applied to the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing efforts to eradicate polio, but on Saturday the World Health Organization said the rapidly spreading monkeypox outbreak represents a global health emergency.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus explained why they were declaring the high alert.

“We have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission about which we understand too little, and which meets the criteria in the international health regulations.”

The label of a "public health emergency of international concern" is WHO's highest level of alert, designed to alert governments that a coordinated international response is needed.

Such an announcement could unlock funding and global efforts to collaborate on sharing vaccines and treatments.

"WHO’s assessment is that the risk of monkeypox is moderate globally and in all regions except in the European region where we assess the risk is high.”

Members of an expert committee that met on Thursday to discuss the potential recommendation were split on the decision, Members of an expert committee that met on Thursday to discuss the potential recommendation were split on the decision, prompting Tedros himself to break the deadlock, he told reporters.

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

The viral disease spreads via close contact and tends to cause flu-like symptoms and pus-filled skin lesions.

Its recent outbreak has chiefly spread between men who have sex with men outside Africa where it is endemic.

“That means this is an outbreak that can be stopped with the right strategies in the right groups.”

But WHO officials said on Saturday they were exploring the possibility of the virus spreading via new modes of transmission. On Friday the United States identified its first two monkeypox cases in children.

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