Monkeypox is declared a global health emergency

The virus has spread to 75 countries but remains almost entirely confined to gay and bisexual men
ON JULY 23RD the World Health Organisation (who) declared the spread of monkeypox a β€œpublic health emergency of international concern”, the highest level of alert in its hierarchy of warnings. The committee advising Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the who’s director-general, did not reach a consensus on whether to elevate monkeypox to that level, with six of its members in favour of doing so and the remaining nine opposed. Nonetheless, Dr Tedros decided to declare an emergency. He hopes that global efforts to curb the spread of the virus will now intensify. The designation gives the who more power to coordinate action to stop transmission.

Until this year monkeypox was primarily a zoonotic disease confined to parts of Africa, where transmission happened mainly from infected animals to people who hunted or ate them. Person-to-person transmission was rare. In May, however, cases began popping up in European countries, alarmingly in people with no direct links to travel from Africa. The outbreak was sustained through transmission between humans–and spreading. By July 23rd there were more than 16,000 reported cases in 75 countries and territories.

For the second time in two years, the World Health Organization has taken the extraordinary step of declaring a global emergency. This time the cause is monkeypox, which has spread in just a few weeks to dozens of countries and infected tens of thousands of people.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O. ‘s director general, on Saturday overruled a panel of advisers, who could not come to a consensus, and declared a β€œpublic health emergency of international concern,” a designation the W.H.O. currently uses to describe only two other diseases, Covid-19 and polio.

β€œWe 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” for a public health emergency, Dr. Tedros told reporters. It was apparently the first time that the director general had sidestepped his advisers to declare an emergency.

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