WHO declares monkeypox outbreak an “emergency”

Anhelina Sheremet

The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Ghebreyesus, declared the monkeypox outbreak a "public health emergency". He stated this during a briefing on July 23.

Monkeypox poses a "moderate risk" to all regions of the world except Europe, where the risk is high.

The "emergency" designation is the highest warning WHO can issue.

This is already the seventh such announcement since 2009, the last one — regarding the coronavirus in 2020. There are currently only two other ongoing public health emergencies in the world – the coronavirus pandemic and the polio eradication effort.

Monkeypox is a viral infection commonly found in animals in Central and West Africa. You can get this disease by coming into contact with an infected animal, but scientists are not sure that it is from monkeys — they believe that smallpox is transmitted to humans by rodents. A person can catch monkeypox if they are bitten by an infected animal or if a person comes into contact with animal fluids: blood, feces, saliva, etc. You can also get infected if you eat undercooked meat.

The outbreak of monkeypox among humans began to be recorded in May 2022. Currently, European countries are the most affected by its human outbreak, with cases also reported in the United States, Canada, Australia, Nigeria, Israel, Brazil, and Mexico. In total, more than 16,000 cases from 75 countries and 5 deaths have been registered.

The WHO said the outbreak was mostly among men who have sex with men who recently reported having sex with new or multiple partners. However, experts have stressed that anyone can contract monkeypox because it is spread through close or intimate contact, and the UN has warned that portrayals of Africans and LGBTQ+ people in some media "reinforce homophobic and racist stereotypes".

Monkeypox is characterized by fever and rashes. There is no special vaccine against monkeypox, but scientists are sure that the vaccine against common smallpox is also effective. In addition, it can be injected after contact with an infected person — this will greatly facilitate the course of the disease.