The declaration marks the second time the WHO has activated its highest public health alert in the last two years, with the first instance being used to alert global citizens to the threat of COVID-19 which ravaged the international community.
“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” for a public health emergency, Tedros Ghebreyesus, director of the WHO, told reporters, per the New York Times.
A panel of WHO officials were torn about whether they should issue the global public health emergency declaration, but Dr. Tedros overruled them. The declaration is currently used to describe at least two other diseases, COVID-19 and polio, per the outlet. This is the seventh such declaration since 2007.
“This process demonstrates once again that this vital tool needs to be sharpened to make it more effective,” he added, per the outlet. Tedros is hoping the declaration will compel world governments to take more aggressive action to curtail the spread of the virus.
Monkeypox is a disease that can typically spread via skin-to-skin contact and entails headaches, fevers, Swollen lymph nodes, rashes, and other nasty symptoms.
Unlike COVID-19, Monkeypox is not a new virus. The disease was first discovered in 1958 and first found in humans in 1970 in present-day Congo. There are already vaccines and antiviral developed to treat the infection and governments around the world have been scrambling to ramp up production.
Most of the infections are currently in Europe, which accounts for about 80% of confirmed cases globally, CNBC reported. Meanwhile, the United States has reported over 3,000 cases. But what is concerning public health officials is the pace with which the virus is spreading. It appears to be accelerating and spreading more efficiently.
Since its discovery, the disease has flared up in parts of Africa on occasion. A vaccine to treat Smallpox had protected people against Monkeypox, but now that Smallpox has been eradicated few people, particularly among younger generations, have vaccine immunity.
Much of the spread appears to have occurred in men with gay and bisexual men being considered a heightened risk for Monkeypox infection due to the nature of the virus. Scientists are currently working to better understand whether mutations to the virus have changed the way in which it spreads.
So far there are at least 16,000 Monkeypox cases globally outside of Africa, which has contended with Monkeypox in the past — this is five times the amount when WHO officials met in June and declined to issue the global public health emergency declaration, the New York Times reported.