The monkeypox outbreak has been declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) by the World Health Organization. The classification is the highest alert that the WHO can issue and follows a worldwide upsurge in cases. It came at the end of the second meeting of the WHO’s International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) Emergency Committee regarding the multi-country outbreak of monkeypox
The WHO Director-General Dr Tedros said the emergency committee members had been unable to reach a consensus on whether the monkeypox outbreak should be classified as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) for this event.
However, he said after having considered the views of Committee Members and Advisors as well as other factors in line with the International Health Regulations, the Director-General has determined that the multi-country outbreak of monkeypox constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
More than 16,000 cases have now been reported from 75 countries and sadly there had been five deaths so far as a result of the outbreak.
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ stated “…in short, 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.
For all of these reasons, I have decided that the global monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern.
Accordingly, I have made a set of recommendations for four groups of countries:
First, those that have not yet reported a case of monkeypox, or have not reported a case for more than 21 days;
Second, those with recently imported cases of monkeypox and that are experiencing human-to-human transmission.
This includes recommendations to implement a coordinated response to stop transmission and protect vulnerable groups;
To engage and protect affected communities;
To intensify surveillance and public health measures;
To strengthen clinical management and infection prevention and control in hospitals and clinics;
To accelerate research into the use of vaccines, therapeutics and other tools;
And recommendations on international travel.
The third group of countries is those with transmission of monkeypox between animals and humans;
And the fourth is countries with manufacturing capacity for diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics.
My full recommendations are laid out in my statement.
I thank the Emergency Committee for its deliberations and advice. I know this has not been an easy or straightforward process, and that there are divergent views among the members.
The International Health Regulations remains a vital tool for responding to the international spread of disease.
But this process demonstrates once again that this vital tool needs to be sharpened to make it more effective.
So I’m pleased that alongside the process of negotiating a new international accord on pandemic preparedness and response, WHO’s Member States are also considering targeted amendments to the International Health Regulations, including ways to improve the process for declaring a public health emergency of international concern.
Although I am declaring a public health emergency of international concern, for the moment this is an outbreak that is concentrated among men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners.
That means that this is an outbreak that can be stopped with the right strategies in the right groups.
It’s therefore essential that all countries work closely with communities of men who have sex with men, to design and deliver effective information and services, and to adopt measures that protect the health, human rights and dignity of affected communities.”
Read WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ full statement on the press conference following the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee regarding the multi-country outbreak of monkeypox here.