W.H.O. Decrees Monkeypox Not (Yet) a Global Emergency

Health workers screen passengers arriving from abroad for Monkeypox symptoms at Anna International Airport terminal in Chennai on June 03, 2022. (Photo by Arun SANKAR / AFP) (Photo by ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty Images)
ARUN SANKAR/AFP via Getty

The global monkeypox outbreak is not currently a public health emergency of international concern, the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) announced Saturday after a meeting at its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

The decision came after delegates flew in from around the world to the tw0-day emergency committee convened Thursday to discuss whether the designation, which has been given to just six disease outbreaks since 2007, was appropriate for monkeypox.

“The emergency committee shared serious concerns about the scale and speed of the current outbreak,” W.H.O. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus observed in a statement.

“Overall, in the report, they advised me that at this moment the event does not constitute a public health emergency of international concern, which is the highest level of alert W.H.O. can issue,” he added.

W.H.O. said in another statement Tedros agreed with the committee’s advice, though a few members of the committee “expressed differing views.”

The organization previously gave the designation to Covid-19, as well as Ebola, Zika, H1N1 flu and polio.

More than 4,000 monkeypox cases have been reported globally across 47 countries and territories since the start of May, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The U.S. alone had recorded more than 200 cases across 25 states and Washington, DC, as of Friday.

“The committee noted that many aspects of the current multi-country outbreak are unusual, such as the occurrence of cases in countries where monkeypox virus circulation had not been previously documented, and the fact that the vast majority of cases is observed among men who have sex with men, of young age,” W.H.O. said on Saturday.

Some committee members said there was a risk of “further, sustained transmission into the wider population,” W.H.O. added, given low levels of population immunity.

W.H.O. said it is still working with experts to change the name of the virus, its strains, and the disease it causes.

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