The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the monkeypox outbreak to be a global health emergency following its ‘extraordinary’ spread to more than 70 countries.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the decision to issue the declaration despite a lack of consensus among experts serving on the U.N. health agency’s emergency committee.
It was the first time the chief of the U.N. health agency has taken such an action.
‘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,’ Tedros said.
‘I know this has not been an easy or straightforward process and that there are divergent views among the members of the committee,’ he added.
A global emergency is WHO’s highest level of alert, but the designation does not necessarily mean a disease is particularly transmissible or lethal.
WHO’s emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, said the director-general made the decision to put monkeypox in that category to ensure the global community takes the current outbreaks seriously.
The UN health agency’s declaration could spur further investment in treating the once-rare disease – and also worsen the scramble for scarce vaccines.
Declaring a global emergency means the monkeypox outbreak is an ‘extraordinary event’ that could spill over into more countries and requires a coordinated global response.