Jul 21, 2022 - Health

WHO reconsiders whether to declare monkeypox a public health emergency

World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press conference at the WHO headquarters in Geneva on Dec. 20, 2021. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday reconvened an emergency committee to reconsider whether it should declare monkeypox a public health emergency.

Why it matters: WHO officials said in June the outbreak poses a public health threat, but the organization declined to formally declare it a public health emergency. Global cases have now surpassed 14,000, with six countries reporting their first cases last week, according to the UN.

  • The "global emergency" designation would place monkeypox in the same category as COVID-19 and ongoing efforts to wipe out polio.

What they're saying: "As the outbreak develops, it’s important to assess the effectiveness of public health interventions in different settings, to better understand what works, and what doesn’t," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in remarks at the meeting.

  • "For the moment, the vast majority of cases continue to be reported among men who have sex with men," he noted.
  • "This transmission pattern represents both an opportunity to implement targeted public health interventions, and a challenge because in some countries, the communities affected face life-threatening discrimination," he said, citing concern that stigma and scapegoating could make the outbreak harder to track.
  • "I am acutely aware that any decision I take regarding the possible determination of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern involves the consideration of many factors, with the ultimate goal of protecting public health," Tedros said.

Worth noting: The WHO is also looking to change the name of the virus due to fears it can stoke racism and stigma.

Go deeper: Monkeypox is not another COVID

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