The WHO Declares Monkeypox Outbreak A Public Health Emergency

Netherlands OUT (Photo by PHIL NIJHUIS/ANP/AFP via Getty Images

On Saturday, The World Health Organization declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus shared in a recent press release that after consulting the Emergency Committee under International Health Regulations last month to assess whether the “multi-country monkeypox outbreak” was of international concern, the committee resolved that the outbreak “did not represent a public health emergency” at the time.  

However, the recent uptick in the spread of the virus, which has resulted in more than 16,000 reported cases from 75 countries and territories and five deaths, has caused the committee to reconvene. 

“Under the International Health Regulations, I am required to consider five elements in deciding whether an outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern,” Ghebreyesus explained. “First, the information provided by countries – which in this case shows that this virus has spread rapidly to many countries that have not seen it before. Second, the three criteria for declaring a public health emergency of international concern, which have been met.”

He continued, “Third, the advice of the Emergency Committee, which has not reached consensus. Fourth, scientific principles, evidence and other relevant information – which are currently insufficient and leave us with many unknowns. And fifth, the risk to human health, international spread, and the potential for interference with international traffic.”

While the WHO emergency committee has not yet reached a unanimous consensus on whether or not to issue the emergency declaration, WHO Director-General Ghebreyesus has moved forward with the designation.

“I have decided that the global monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern,” Ghebreyesus said.

According to the CDC, there have been more than 16,000 global cases of monkeypox reported, with 2,891 cases confirmed in the U.S. 191,000 doses of the vaccine have been delivered nationwide to health departments. 

The WHO cautions that although the risk of monkeypox remains moderate globally and across regions, “There is also a clear risk of further international spread.”

If you’ve heard a lot about the viral disease but are unclear about the effect it can have, check out one Houston man’s account of his experience with it.


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