WHO declares monkeypox global health emergency

World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus.

World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus.

Photo credit: AFP

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the monekypox outbreak a global health emergency, the highest alert the health agency can issue.

The move by WHO comes after an upsurge in cases of monkeypox across the globe.

The classification now means WHO considers the outbreak a threat to global health and warrants a coordinated international response to contain the virus before it escalates into a pandemic.

Before declaring the alert, the WHO emergency committee meets to weigh the evidence before making recommendations to the director general. However, the committee failed to reach a consensus on whether the viral disease constitutes an emergency.

The agency’s chief, Tedros Ghebreyesus, made the decision to issue the alert based on the rapidly spreading outbreak.

“We have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly, through new modes of transmission, about which we understand too little,” Dr Tedros said.

“For all of these reasons, I have decided that the global monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern.”

There are more than 16, 000 monkeypox cases reported globally, according to WHO data, with men who sleep with men currently being at the highest risk of infection.

Five deaths have been reported in Africa with no deaths recorded outside the continent.

While Europe is currently the global epicentre of the outbreak with more than 80 percent of the global confirmed cases this year, historically the disease was being reported as early as in the 1950s in West and Central Africa where rodents and other animals carried the virus.

According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the monkeypox virus causes a rash, which looks like pimples or blisters, that spreads over the body.

Presently, there are only two other such health emergencies – the coronavirus pandemic and the fight against polio.