Despite a WHO panel not having consensus on labeling the sickness a global health emergency, WHO leader Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus directed the organization to declare it a “public health emergency of international concern.”
“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” Tedros told the press.
The disease, which primarily spreads among men who have sex with men, joins both COVID and polio as the other diseases designated as international emergencies by the global health organization.
While monkeypox has long been prevalent in parts of Africa, it has been spreading around the world in recent months after circulating at raves in Europe. Excluding Africa, there are about 16,000 cases worldwide, including 3,000 in the U.S. There have been no known deaths to date from the disease outside of Africa.
After a WHO panel did not unanimously decide that monkeypox needed international efforts to crack down on its spread, Tedro made the decision to elevate the response to the disease and said that the process of declaring an emergency needed to be redesigned.
“This process demonstrates once again that this vital tool needs to be sharpened to make it more effective,” he said.
The disease, which leads to lesions and rashes on the skin, is spread through close physical contact. It has also been known to cause those who have it pain when using the bathroom.
“We have seen patients with severe rectal pain that worsens every time they go to the bathroom, genital pain every time they urinate and throat pain every time they swallow,” Jason Zucker at Columbia University said.
A new study suggests that monkeypox is also largely sexually transmitted.
“These data point clearly to the fact that infections are so far almost exclusively occurring among men who have sex with men,” said epidemelogist Jennifer Nuzzo at Brown University, commenting on a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“And the clinical presentation of these infections suggest that sexual transmission, not just close physical contact, may be helping spread the virus among this population,” Nuzzo added.
The Biden administration has ordered hundreds of thousands of doses of a vaccine used to protect against the disease.