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Rebecca Lumley
27 Jun 2022

WHO says monkeypox not a health emergency, but leaders ‘deeply concerned’

The UN agency convened a meeting last week to discuss the outbreak 

The World Health Organization has determined that monkeypox is not yet a global health emergency after a meeting of international experts last week. 

The health body said in a statement that although there were some differing views within the committee, they ultimately agreed by consensus that the outbreak does not warrant the Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) title.  

However, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that the situation remains serious. He said: ‘I am deeply concerned about the monkeypox outbreak, this is clearly an evolving health threat that my colleagues and I in the WHO Secretariat are following extremely closely.’ 

The ‘global emergency’ label currently only applies to the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to eradicate polio.  

There have been more than 3,200 confirmed cases of monkeypox and one death reported in the last six weeks from 48 countries where it does not usually spread, according to according to the UN agency. Almost 1,500 cases and 70 deaths in central Africa, where the disease is more common, have also been reported, with the majority in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

The disease spreads through close contact and symptoms include fever, rashes and lesions on the skin. It has been spreading largely between men who have sex with men outside the countries where it is endemic, though it is not defined as a sexually transmitted infection.  

There are vaccines and treatments available for monkeypox, although they are in limited supply. On June 14, vaccine maker Bavarian Nordic announced that it had signed a supply agreement with the European Union for 110,000 doses of its Imvanex shot. These will be made available to EU Member States, Norway and Iceland.  

There are no current plans for widespread vaccination. Countries with available doses, such as the UK and Germany, have recommended the shot for those at the highest risk of contracting the disease, which includes gay and bisexual men, healthcare workers, and close contacts. 

Rebecca Lumley
Digital Editor - Pharma

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