The World Health Organization (WHO) on Saturday said monkeypox was not a "public health emergency of international concern." In a statement, a WHO emergency committee said many aspects of the outbreak were "unusual" and acknowledged that monkeypox has been neglected for years. "While a few members expressed differing views, the committee resolved by consensus to advise the WHO director-general that at this stage the outbreak should be determined to not constitute'' a global health emergency, WHO said.
WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, convened a committee of experts on Thursday to counsel him whether to sound the UN health agency’s strongest alarm over the outbreak.
The label, the UN agency's highest level of alert, would have given monkeypox the same distinction as the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing effort to eradicate polio.
Noting many unknowns about the spread and gaps in the data, Tedros said “The emergency committee shared serious concerns about the scale and speed of the current outbreak.”
“They advised me that at this moment the event does not constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), which is the highest level of alert WHO can issue, but recognised that the convening of the committee itself reflects the increasing concern about the international spread of monkeypox.”
Tedros further said the outbreak was “clearly an evolving health threat” that needed immediate action to stop further spread, using surveillance, contact-tracing, isolation and care of patients, and ensuring vaccines and treatments are available to at-risk populations.
“The vast majority of cases is observed among men who have sex with men, of young age,” chiefly appearing in urban areas, in “clustered social and sexual networks”, according to the WHO report of the meeting.
“However, the committee unanimously acknowledged the emergency nature of the event and that controlling the further spread of outbreak requires intense response efforts.”
A surge of monkeypox cases has been detected since early May outside of the West and Central African countries where the disease has long been endemic. Most of the new cases have been in Western Europe.
More than 3,200 confirmed cases and one death have so far been reported to the WHO from more than 50 countries this year.