(CNN Spanish) — The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the outbreak of monkeypox to be a public health emergency of international concern.
The decision was announced on Saturday morning after the WHO convened its second emergency committee on the issue on Thursday.
“I have decided that the global outbreak of monkeypox represents a public health emergency of international concern,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced on Saturday morning.
Tedros said that while the committee was unable to reach a consensus, it made the decision after considering the five elements needed to decide whether an outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.
The WHO initially stopped short of declaring the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency of international concern after its first emergency committee meeting on June 23. At the time, Tedros said the emergency committee reported that, for the time being, “the event does not constitute an Emergency of International Concern,” but acknowledged the “evolving health threat” that the WHO would be monitoring closely.
The WHO defines a public health emergency of international concern, or PHEIC, as “an extraordinary event” that constitutes a “public health risk to other states through the international spread of disease” and “potentially requires a coordinated international response.” “.
The organization’s emergency committee on monkeypox first met in late June, when its members raised serious concerns about the scale and speed of the virus outbreak, but said it did not constitute a PHEIC. Tedros reconvened the committee to provide the latest information, he said.
The PHEIC designation comes from the International Health Regulations created in 2005 and represents an international agreement to help prevent and respond to public health risks that have the potential to spread throughout the world.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes the regulations as “a legally binding agreement by 196 countries to develop the ability to detect and report potential public health emergencies in The International Health Regulations require that all countries have the capacity to detect, assess, report and respond to public health events.”
There are two ongoing public health emergencies: polio, which started in 2014, and covid-19, which started in 2020.
Four other PHEICs have been declared since the regulations were established: H1N1 influenza from 2009 to 2010, Ebola from 2014 to 2016 and 2019 to 2020, and Zika virus in 2016.
The US currently reports more than 2,800 probable or confirmed cases of monkeypox in 44 states, Washington and Puerto Rico, according to CDC data. Globally, there are more than 16,500 reported cases in 74 countries.
Monkeypox is a much less serious cousin of the now eradicated smallpox virus. It is endemic to parts of West and Central Africa and is usually contracted from a rodent or small mammal.
The monkeypox virus can be spread through contact with bodily fluids, sores, or items such as clothing and bedding that are contaminated with the virus. It can also spread from person to person through respiratory droplets, usually in a closed setting, according to the CDC.
Anyone who has had contact with someone with a monkeypox-like rash, or who has had contact with someone who has a confirmed or probable case of monkeypox, is at high risk of infection. A large number of cases this year have been in men who have sex with men, and public health officials are focusing their prevention efforts on this group.