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The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that international outbreak of monkeypox virus is now a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
While United Nations Health Agency (UN) Having previously discussed the matter, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus explained at a media briefing on Saturday that the International Health Regulations (IHR) Committee of Emergencies had broadly agreed that the transmission of the virus at the time “did not constitute [PHEIC].”
Since then, he noted, the monkeypox outbreak has continued to grow, with more than 16,000 cases reported in 75 countries and territories.
Five deaths confirmed.
Tedros said there was a clear risk of further international spread, although he noted that the risk of interfering with international traffic remained low.
The current WHO assessment is that the risk of monkeypox is moderate worldwide and in all regions except Europe, where the risk is assessed as high.
Notably, the committee did not reach consensus on its recommendations for defining a PHEIC at its second meeting.
Tedros made the decision after taking into account the views of committee members and advisers, as well as other factors in accordance with the IHR.
“While I am declaring a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, for now this is an outbreak that is concentrated among men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners,” Tedros said.
“That means this outbreak can be stopped with the right strategies in the right groups,” he said.
The leader called on all countries to work closely with the communities of men who have sex with men, and to provide effective information and services and take measures to protect “health, human rights and dignity or affected communities.”
He warned against stigmatization and said that with the tools that the world currently has, “we can stop the transmission and bring [monkeypox] outbreak under control.
Although monkeypox virus was found in central and western Africa, it was not known to cause major outbreaks outside the continent or to spread widely to humans for decades until May.
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 2,891 confirmed cases of monkeypox and orthopoxvirus, most of them in New York, where vaccination efforts run into technical problems.
While most cases have been seen in gay or bisexual men, experts warn that anyone is at potential risk.
Humans usually become infected with monkeypox virus through contact with skin lesions or bodily fluids of infected animals or humans, or through contact with materials contaminated with the virus.
Smallpox associated monkeypox has milder symptoms.
Some symptoms of monkeypox include fever, chills, rash, and pain before lesions appear.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.