The World Health Organization has said that monkeypox is not yet a global public health emergency.
The announcement is coming after report of at least 4,100 people contracting the disease related to smallpox in 46 countries as of June 24.
Speaking on Saturday June 25, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was deeply concerned about the outbreak. He also disclosed that he convened a committee of experts on Thursday June 23, to advise him whether to sound the UN health agency’s strongest alarm over the outbreak.
“I am deeply concerned about the monkeypox outbreak, this is clearly an evolving health threat that my colleagues and I in the WHO Secretariat are following extremely closely.
“The emergency committee shared serious concerns about the scale and speed of the current outbreak.
“They advised me that at this moment the event does not constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), which is the highest level of alert WHO can issue, but recognised that the convening of the committee itself reflects the increasing concern about the international spread of monkeypox.”
He also noted that the outbreak was “clearly an evolving health threat” that needed immediate action to stop further spread, using surveillance, contact-tracing, isolation and care of patients, and ensuring vaccines and treatments are available to at-risk populations.
The declaration of a public health emergency would have potentially made it easier to get treatments and vaccines to people infected with or exposed to the virus. Some medications and vaccines that could help fend off monkeypox are approved for use against smallpox, and can be used against monkeypox only with special authorization.
The virus that causes monkeypox, named for its discovery in monkeys in 1958 though it is probably a virus that mainly infects rodents, is not a new threat. Countries in central Africa, where monkeypox is endemic, have had sporadic outbreaks since researchers found the first human case in 1970. Places in western Africa had few cases until 2017.