WHO declares monkeypox a global public health emergency, raises alert to highest level

The WHO is rating the viral outbreak at its highest level of concern, with cases having quintupled globally in a month.

Tan Min-Wei | July 24, 2022, 02:18 PM

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The World Health Organization's (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has declared  the viral monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), its most serious alert level.

The WHO last issued a global health emergency in January 2020 in response to the Covid-19 outbreak and declared it a pandemic two months later.

Global surge in cases, with over 16,000 reported cases

The monkeypox outbreak has grown to over 16,000 reported cases in more than 75 countries and territories. This is up from just over 3,000 cases in 47 countries a month ago.

Tedros said in a statement given on July 23 that he had reconvened an emergency committee under the International Health Regulations to decide whether the viral outbreak was now a PHEIC, a month after the original committee had been brought together and then decided it was not.

Although there was still not a consensus to declare an international emergency, Tedros had considered the evidence brought to him by the committee and decided to go ahead with the PHEIC declaration.

Because of this, the WHO laid out a set of recommendations, particularly to countries that have recorded human to human transmission of the virus in the past 21 days.

Recommended steps have similarities to those used during parts of the Covid-19 pandemic, such as increasing countries' medical surveillance and detection capability, including polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing; contact tracing, as well as the targeted use of vaccines.

Tedros said that the "outbreak can be stopped with the right strategies in the right groups," urging governments to work with affected communities to adopt measures to protect their "health, human rights, and dignity".

He also noted that the WHO currently considers the European region as the only area where the risk was high, with all other regions at a moderate risk. Although there was a "clear risk of international spread", the "risk of interference with international traffic remains low for the moment".

Six cases in Singapore, three local

Singapore has reported six cases of monkeypox so far, with three cases being imported, and three being local transmissions.

The most recent reported transmission was on July 14.

For more information about monkeypox, visit MOH's dedicated website here.

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Top image from WHO & Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus via Facebook