The monkeypox outbreak is not yet a global health emergency, the World Health Organization has decided – although the director-general remains “deeply concerned”.
An emergency summit of top doctors from the WHO was convened to discuss the current outbreak and did not designate it as a public health emergency of international concern (USPPI).
Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said: “I am deeply concerned about the outbreak of monkeypox, it is clearly an evolving health threat that my colleagues, I and the WHO Secretariat WHO are following very closely”.
The International Health Regulations Emergency Committee has raised concerns and highlighted action to be taken by the international community.
They noted that since early May, 3,000 cases have been detected in 50 countries that do not normally see cases of monkeypox.
Of these, one death was reported in an immunocompromised person.
In areas where it is endemic, there have been 1,500 cases this year and 70 deaths.
Dr Tedros said: “As the committee has pointed out, monkeypox has been circulating in a number of African countries for decades and has been neglected in terms of research, attention and funding.
“This must change – not just for monkeypox but for other neglected diseases in low-income countries, as the world is once again reminded that health is an interconnected proposition.”
According to the NHS, you can get monkeypox if you are bitten by an infected animal or touch its blood, body fluids, pimples, blisters or scabs.
Catching it from an infected person is very rare, but transmission is possible through close physical contact, including sexual intercourse, contact with clothing, bedding, towels, or other items used by an infected person rash.
Contact with their blisters or scabs or exposure to their coughing or sneezing can also put you at risk.
What is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern?
According to the WHO, a USPPI is “an extraordinary event, which poses a public health risk to other states through international transmission, and which potentially requires a coordinated international response”.
Previous PHEIC declarations include Swine Flu, Polio, Zika, COVID, and various Ebola outbreaks.
COVID was designated PHEIC on January 31, 2020.
A statement said: “The committee has advised that the event should be closely monitored and reviewed after a few weeks, once further information on the current unknowns becomes available, to determine if any significant changes have occurred that may justify a reconsideration of their advice.”
She added that certain events should lead to a reassessment of the situation.
This includes an increase in the growth rate of cases over the next three weeks, more cases among sex workers, increased spread to other countries, and an increase in severe cases and mortality.