WHO declares monkey pox an international public health emergency

The World Health Organisation, (WHO), yesterday declared monkey pox a public health emergency of international concern, a designation reserved for the most serious global disease outbreaks.

That puts monkey pox on the same list as six other outbreaks with the same WHO label since 2007: Covid-19, Zika, H1N1 flu, polio and Ebola, which has been designated an emergency twice.

WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, made the decision to issue the declaration despite a lack of consensus among experts serving on the U.N. health agency’s emergency committee. It was the first time the chief of the U.N. health agency has taken such an action.

The WHO decision came after an emergency committee convened on Thursday to assess the spread of monkeypox and determine the severity of its threat.

“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”, Tedros said. “I know this has not been an easy or straightforward process and that there are divergent views among the members of the committee”, he added.

The world has seen more than 16,500 monkeypox cases so far this year in 68 countries where the disease is not endemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. alone has recorded more than 2,500 cases since May, though that’s almost certainly an undercount. 

Monkey pox spreads through close physical contact, including kissing or sexual contact, as well as through respiratory droplets and contaminated items like clothing or bedding. Anyone who has been in close contact with a monkey pox patient can get infected.

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