WHO declares monkeypox global public health emergency, issues recommendations
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared that the global monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern.
The announcement came during a press conference after the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee meeting on July 21. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, the organization’s director-general issued the statement.
According to Ghebreyesus, the declaration was made because there have been 16,000 reported cases from 75 countries and territories, and five deaths. Though the committee was unable to reach a consensus at the Emergency Meeting on whether the outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern, Ghebreyesus issued the declaration because the virus outbreak meets the criteria in the International Health Regulations.
The statement outlined the five elements that are deliberated regarding whether an outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of public concern. Those include:
- Information provided by countries – which in this case shows that this virus has spread rapidly to many countries that have not seen it before;
- Three criteria for declaring a public health emergency of international concern have been met;
- The Emergency Committee has not reached consensus;
- Scientific principles, evidence, and other relevant information are insufficient, leaving many unknown questions;
- The risk to human health, international spread, and the potential for interference with international traffic.
Ghebreyesus said the WHO’s assessment is that the risk of monkeypox is moderate globally and in all regions, except in the European region where the risk is categorized as high. There is also a clear risk of further international spread, although the risk of interference with international traffic remains low for the moment.
“We 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 in the International Health Regulations,” he said. “For all of these reasons, I have decided that the global monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern.”
He added, “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. That means that this is an outbreak that can be stopped with the right strategies in the right groups.”
Ghebreyesus said therefore it is essential that all countries work closely with communities of men who have sex with men, to design and deliver effective information and services, and to adopt measures that protect the health, human rights, and dignity of affected communities.
Temporary recommendations, categorized by groups of states parties, based on their epidemiological situation, patterns of transmission and capacities were issued in relation to the multi-country outbreak of monkeypox. They can be found here.