The rare designation means that the W.H.O. now views the outbreak as a significant enough threat to global health that a coordinated international response is needed.
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The announcement was made on Saturday morning for the W.H.O.’s second emergency committee on the issue this week. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.’s director general, told reporters that the global risk is moderate, but the threat is higher in Europe. Currently, Europe is the epicenter of the outbreak.
The recent designation comes on the heels of the first child cases of monkeypox in the U.S. The Los Angeles Times reported that one toddler living in California and an infant living in another state had contracted the virus.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 16,800 cases of monkeypox have been reported in 74 countries since around May. Monkeypox deaths have only been reported in Africa though, where a more dangerous version of the virus is spreading.
This will mark the second time in two years that W.H.O. has announced a global emergency. The first was in 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the declaration does not impose requirements on national governments, it does serve as an urgent call for action.
Monkeypox is a viral disease that causes symptoms similar to smallpox, but it is clinically less severe. It has been a concern for years in some central and west African countries. In recent weeks, the virus has spread significantly in countries that don’t normally report monkeypox, including the United States. The majority of the infections outside Africa have occurred among men who have sex with men.
The vaccines used during the smallpox eradication program in 1980 provided protection against monkeypox, but newer vaccines have been developed for the virus specifically. According to the CDC, two vaccines licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are already available for preventing monkeypox infection: JYNNEOS (also known as Imvamune or Imvanex) and ACAM2000.
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