On Saturday, the World Health Organization declared the monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency affecting more than 70 countries worldwide.
According to reports, a global emergency is WHO’s highest alert level, but the designation does not necessarily mean a disease is particularly transmissible or lethal. Similar declarations were made for the Zika virus in 2016 in Latin America and the ongoing effort to eradicate polio, in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
The declaration is expected to spur further investment in treating the once-rare disease and worsen the scramble for scarce vaccines.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reportedly made the declaration without an expert recommendation.
“We have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission, about which we understand too little,” Tedros said.
“I know this has not been an easy or straightforward process, and there are divergent views,” Tedros added.
WHO’s emergency chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, explained that the director-general declared monkeypox a global emergency to ensure that the world takes the current outbreaks seriously.