GENEVA (AFP) – The World Health Organization (WHO) on Saturday declared the monkeypox outbreak, which has affected nearly 17,000 people in 74 countries, to be a global health emergency – the highest alarm it can sound.
“I have decided that the global monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern,” WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference.
He said a committee of experts who met on Thursday was unable to reach a consensus, so it fell to him to decide whether to trigger the highest alert possible.
“WHO’s assessment is that the risk of monkeypox is moderate globally and in all regions, except in the European region where we assess the risk as high,” he added.
Monkeypox has affected more than 16,800 people in 74 countries, according to a recent tally by United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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.
Tedros has previously expressed concern that stigma and scapegoating could make the outbreak harder to track.