The World Health Organization has declared a global health emergency because of the monkeypox outbreak now affecting 75 countries and territories.
The decision by WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus follows an emergency committee meeting held Thursday, in which the committee remained split on a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) decision.
“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.
Tedros decided to move forward due to the continued spread of monkeypox in countries beyond Africa, where the disease is endemic in Central African Republic, Sierra Leone and 10 other nations. WHO has confirmed reports of about 320 monkeypox cases in Africa and its Eastern Mediterranean region, which covers North African states.
The Democratic Republic of Congo accounts for half of those cases. Nigeria has 101, according to the most recent WHO data, while Ghana— a country where monkeypox was previously known only in animal populations—has 19 cases.
But Africa is believed to have many more, with the Africa CDC reporting at least 1,636 unconfirmed cases so far this year. Globally, the monkeypox case numbers have now surpassed 16,000, with 74% located in the European region.
“For the moment, this monkeypox outbreak is concentrated among men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners. That means that this is an outbreak that can be stopped with the right strategies in the right groups,” said Tedros. He cautioned against stigmatizing any group because anyone can get the virus.
Image: CDC United States