WHO declares monkeypox a global health emergency

Click to play video: 'Monkeypox declared global health emergency by WHO, as 2022 case count his 16k'
Monkeypox declared global health emergency by WHO, as 2022 case count his 16k
WATCH ABOVE: The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the ongoing monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency. As Reggie Cecchini reports, so far in 2022, there have been more than 16,000 cases of monkeypox in more than 75 countries, and five deaths in the continent of Africa – Jul 23, 2022

Monkeypox outbreaks are now seen as a public health emergency of international concern, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced at a virtual press conference Saturday.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the decision comes as monkeypox outbreaks have met “the five elements in the International Health Regulations (IHR)” that decide whether an outbreak constitutes a global health emergency.

Click to play video: 'Monkeypox: World Health Organization declares public health emergency of international concern'
Monkeypox: World Health Organization declares public health emergency of international concern

Tedros said these criteria include the unprecedented rapid spread of the virus to many countries; and the risk it poses to human health, international spread, and the potential for interference with international traffic.

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Tedros said monkeypox has spread around the world rapidly.

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“WHO’s assessment is that the risk of monkeypox is moderate globally and in all regions, except in the European region where we assess the risk as high,” said Tedros.

Under the IHR, when a “public health emergency of international concern” is declared, international efforts are required to stop the spread of the virus. This could include sharing vaccines and treatments among countries.

Click to play video: 'Monkeypox: With cases jumping 59% in Canada, what are the signs you need to know?'
Monkeypox: With cases jumping 59% in Canada, what are the signs you need to know?

Tedros, however, noted that the Monkeypox IHR Emergency Committee “was unable to reach a consensus” on whether monkeypox is a global health emergency.

He said nine expert members of the committee were against it while six were in favor of the declaration at the meeting on Thursday. Tedros made the decision on calling monkeypox a global emergency despite the lack of consensus among experts, saying he acted as “a tiebreaker.”

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When asked about the committee’s split decision, Tedros said the committee’s job is not to make a decision on whether or not monkeypox should be declared a global health emergency.

“They give advice, they give recommendations, and it’s my responsibility to accept it or not,” he said.

“We have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission, about which we understand too little,” Tedros said. “I know this has not been an easy or straightforward process and that there are divergent views.”

Although monkeypox has been established in parts of central and west Africa for decades, it was not known to spark large outbreaks beyond the continent or to spread widely among people until May, when authorities detected dozens of epidemics in Europe, North America and elsewhere.

Last month, WHO’s expert committee said the monkeypox outbreak did not yet amount to an international emergency, but the panel convened this week to reevaluate the situation.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 16,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in 74 countries since about May. To date, monkeypox deaths have only been reported in Africa, where a more dangerous version of the virus is spreading, mainly in Nigeria and Congo.

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In Africa, monkeypox mainly spreads to people by infected wild animals like rodents in limited outbreaks that typically have not crossed borders. In Europe, North America and elsewhere, however, monkeypox is spreading among people with no links to animals or recent travel to Africa.

— with files from AP and Reuters

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