Monkeypox not presently global public health emergency: WHO

The United Nations

The monkeypox outbreak does not currently constitute a global public health concern, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday, though “intense response efforts” are needed to control further spread.

The announcement comes two days after WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus convened an Emergency Committee on the disease, under the International Health Regulations (IHR), to address the rising caseload.

“The WHO Director-General concurs with the advice offered by the IHR Emergency Committee regarding the multi-country monkeypox outbreak and, at present, does not determine that the event constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC),” the UN agency said in a statement.

The PHEIC declaration is the highest level of global alert, which currently applies only to the COVID-19 pandemic and polio.

Monkeypox, a rare viral disease, occurs primarily in tropical rainforest areas of Central and West Africa, though it is occasionally exported to other regions.

Since May, more than 3,000 cases have emerged in 47 countries, many of which have never previously reported the disease. The highest numbers are currently in Europe, and most cases are among men who have sex with men.

Preventing further spread

There have been few hospitalizations to date, and one death.

“The Committee unanimously acknowledged the emergency nature of the outbreak and that controlling further spread requires intense response efforts,” the statement said.

Members have also recommended that the situation should be closely monitored and reviewed after a few weeks.

Conditions that could prompt re-assessment such as evidence of an increased growth rate in cases over the next 21 days, occurrence of cases among sex workers, significant spread to and within additional countries, significant case increase in endemic countries, and rising caseloads among vulnerable groups such as persons with poorly controlled HIV infection, pregnant women and children.

Other situations mentioned include evidence of reverse spillover to the animal population, or significant change in viral genome

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