WHO declares monkeypox a global ‘health emergency’

Monkeypox has officially been declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) by the World Health Organization, with a worldwide total of “16,000 reported cases from 75 countries and territories, and five deaths,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Saturday.

“[W]e 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,” Ghebreyesus said.

Thanks to biotech industry partnerships with the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and previous investment in medical preparedness, effective vaccines and therapeutics to treat monkeypox are already available and being distributed to many parts of the world in an effort to tackle the new emergency. The declaration will also help to unleash more financial resources and increase the global collaboration of nations under the International Health Regulations (IHR).

However, experts agree there is more work to be done to address the health crisis. According to Bloomberg, COVID-19 “forced governments around the world to revamp their pandemic response programs, invest in drugs and vaccines and establish viral surveillance systems. Now monkeypox is putting those upgrades to the test—and they’re falling short.”

White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said that the US federal government may enforce a public health emergency but it “depends on what does that allow us to do.”

“Right now, we have over 2000 cases, but we have ramped up vaccinations, ramped up treatments, ramped up testing, and we’re going to continue to look at all sorts of policy options. Right now, we think we can get our arms around this thing, but obviously, if we need further tools, we will invoke them as we need them,” he said, speaking on CBS News’ Face the Nation on Sunday.

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