WHO decision imminent on declaring monkeypox a global health emergency

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The World Health Organization will announce Saturday whether it considers the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. 

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will lead a press conference at 3 p.m. Geneva time to announce the outcome of a meeting of experts that deliberated this week on whether the outbreak constitutes the WHO’s highest level of alert. It’s the second time the emergency committee has met to discuss the monkeypox outbreak, with an earlier meeting in June stopping short of declaring it an international emergency. 

“I remain concerned about the number of cases, in an increasing number of countries, that have been reported to WHO,” said Tedros in comments to the emergency committee, which met on Thursday. More than 14,000 cases of monkeypox from 71 WHO countries have been reported to the organization. The disease, which is endemic to several African countries, started spreading across the world this year, with no epidemiological links to travel.

In the U.S., the government said on Friday that it is discussing whether to declare a public health emergency over monkeypox. “We’re looking at … what are the ways the response could be enhanced, if any, by declaring a public health emergency,” White House COVID response coordinator Ashish Jha told reporters on Friday.  

Earlier this week, the European Commission secured over 50,000 extra monkeypox vaccines from Danish manufacturer Bavarian Nordic, bringing the total jabs available to 163,620. “I am concerned by the increasing number of monkeypox cases in the EU. We now have over 7,000 cases in the EU, an almost 50 percent increase since a week ago,” said EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides.