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As cases of Monkeypox surge across the globe, the World Health Organization has decided to designate the outbreak as a global health emergency – the highest alarm it can sound.

“We have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission about which we understand too little and which meets the criteria in the international health regulations," said the health body's director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Saturday.

"I have decided that the global Monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern," he added. 

Addressing a press conference, Tedros stated that WHO's emergency committee members could not reach a consensus on the issue. 

“I know this has not been an easy or straightforward process and that there are divergent views among the members of the committee," he said.

However, he informed that he is required to consider five elements in deciding whether an outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern. 

Listing them, he said the first is the information provided by countries “which in this case shows that this virus has spread rapidly to many countries that have not seen it before."

“Second, the three criteria for declaring a public health emergency of international concern, which have been met. Third, the advice of the emergency committee, which has not reached a consensus," he said.

“Fourth, scientific principles, evidence and other relevant information, which are currently insufficient and leave us with many unknowns. And fifth, the risk to human health, international spread, and the potential for interference with international traffic," he added. 

His decision to declare Monkeypox a health emergency came in view of these considerations. 

The WHO chief went on to say that although the risk of Monkeypox's interference with international traffic remains low for the moment, there is a clear risk of further international spread.

The label of a "public health emergency of international concern" is designed to sound an alarm that a coordinated international response is needed and could unlock funding and global efforts to collaborate on sharing vaccines and treatments.

So far this year, there have been more than 16,000 cases of Monkeypox in more than 60 countries, and five deaths in Africa.

A surge in monkeypox infections has been reported since early May outside the West and Central African countries where the disease has long been endemic.

 

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