The World Health Organization (WHO) has now declared monkeypox to be an international public health emergency, Fox News reports.
This is a significant change from about a month ago. At the time, around June 25, this was the statement that was released:
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)
What has changed between then and now?
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus explained the answer over the weekend.
The spread continues
Tedros explained the WHO’s decision to declare monkeypox a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) at a virtual press conference that was held on Saturday.
There, Tedros noted that, since the end of June, monkeypox has only continued to grow – such that there are now over 16,000 cases reported in 75 countries and territories. So far, there has also been five deaths that have been confirmed to have resulted from monkeypox.
“There is also a clear risk of further international spread, although the risk of interference with international traffic remains low for the moment,” Tedros said.
Only Europe is listed by the WHO as being at a high risk of monkeypox spread. The WHO has put all other parts of the world at moderate risk.
It “can be stopped”
Tedros declared at the press conference that, with the abilities currently available, “we can stop transmission and bring this [monkeypox] outbreak under control.”
“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,” Tedros said. “That means that this is an outbreak that can be stopped with the right strategies in the right groups.”
Some of the strategies suggested by Tedros include the raising of awareness about the illness through the dissemination of information and the adoption of health measures designed to decrease the risk of spread.
Tedros, though, warned against “stigma and discrimination,” stating that these two things “can be as dangerous as any virus.”