World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the monkeypox outbreak is a major health threat but is not currently a global health emergency.
Following a meeting of experts to assess the situation in this regard, Tedros stated in a statement: “At this time, (the monkeypox outbreak) does not constitute a public health emergency of international concern,” referring to the highest alert level that the public organization health may announce.
Monkeypox is a rare disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans and vice versa. Its symptoms include fever, muscle pain, swollen lymph nodes, chills, fatigue, and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.
The disease is generally endemic in West and Central Africa, and infections have been reported in Europe since May, and since then the number of countries that have tracked it in their territory has increased.
More than 3,200 cases of monkeypox have been reported to WHO in more than 50 countries, and one death has been reported this year.
After reviewing the experts’ report, Tedros said: “The Emergency Management Committee has expressed serious concern about the scale and speed of the current outbreak,” noting many things that are still unknown in terms of the outbreak and data gaps.
He noted that the opinions of experts differed.
He said the report concluded that “the current situation does not constitute a public health emergency of international concern” but emphasized that “the committee meeting itself reflects growing concern about the global outbreak of monkeypox.”
While the new outbreak may be linked specifically to gay parties in Europe, monkeypox is not believed to be a sexually transmitted disease. It can be transmitted by contact with skin blisters or saliva from an infected person, or by contact and sharing of bed linen or towels.
An infected person remains contagious until all of the blisters have crusted over and new skin has formed.