The head of the World Health Organization Saturday declared the monkeypox outbreak to be a global health emergency – the highest alarm it can sound.
Speaking on Saturday at a media briefing on monkeypox, Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO director general, said the decision on the emergency status was taken, despite a lack of consensus by the emergency committee of the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR), after reconvening following its earlier declaration that monkeypox was not yet a global health emergency.
He said there is also a clear risk of further international spread, although the risk of interference with international traffic remains low for the moment.
“So, in short, 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,” he said.
“For all of these reasons, I have decided that the global monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern.”
Ghebreyesus said he has, therefore, made a set of recommendations for four groups of countries — those yet to report a case; those with recently imported cases of monkeypox; those with transmission of monkeypox from animals to humans; and those with manufacturing capacity for vaccines and therapeutics.
“Although I am declaring a public health emergency of international concern, for the moment, this is an outbreak that is concentrated among men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners,” he said.
“That means that this is an outbreak that can be stopped with the right strategies in the right groups.
“It’s therefore essential that all countries work closely with communities of men who have sex with men, to design and deliver effective information and services, and to adopt measures that protect both the health, human rights and dignity of affected communities.”