The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the global monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, the strongest call the action the agency can make.
It marked the seventh time that WHO has made a declaration of a public health emergency since 2009.
The most recent declaration before Monkeypox was for Covid, which was given the same label by WHO in 2020.
A public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) is defined by the WHO’s international health regulations as “an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other states through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response.”
The term implies that the situation is serious, sudden, unusual, or unexpected. It carries implications for public health that are beyond borders and may require immediate attention by the international community.
WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said after a meeting of a committee of experts that experts met to review the data, but were unable to reach a consensus. However, since then, he decided to break the deadlock by declaring it a PHEIC.
Ghebreyesus said in short, the Monkeypox outbreak has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission, about which too little is understood, and it meets the criteria in the international health regulations to be a PHEIC.
The WHO Director-General said that while the risk of Monkeypox was “moderate” globally, the risk was “high” in Europe, stating there was “a clear risk of further international spread.”
There have been 16,016 Monkeypox cases globally. In the past week alone, there were 4,132. The disease is now in 75 countries and territories. Five people have died from it.
Europe has the highest number of total cases, holding 11,865 of the cases, and is also home to the highest increase within the last seven days.
The WHO health emergencies program’s technical lead for Monkeypox, Dr. Rosalind Lewis, said there is a lot of work to be done, and action needs to take place to establish what causes risk and to reduce the risk of transmission.
Monkeypox is typically found in animals in central and Western Africa. The latest outbreak is unprecedented. Typically cases have occasionally been identified in countries where the virus is not endemic, but not for this current outbreak.
Europe has the highest cases, but cases are also reported in the United States, Canada, Australia, Nigeria, Israel, Brazil, Mexico, and others.