The World Health Organization (WHO) has decided to activate its highest alert level for the rapidly spreading monkeypox outbreak.
According to the Washington Post, the global health agency’s move to label the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern is expected to fast-track new funding to battle the outbreak and pressure governments into action.
“In short, we have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission about which we understand too little,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Saturday.
“For all of these reasons, I have decided that the global monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern,” he continued.
Roughly two months into the outbreak, there are nearly 17,000 cases of monkeypox across seventy-four countries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the United States, there are over 2,900 monkeypox infections across more than forty states.
Health officials, however, are not exactly sure how fast the virus has spread, largely because they have limited information about people who have been diagnosed and are unsure how many infected individuals might be spreading it unknowingly.
Public health advocates applauded the United Nations agency’s decision to label monkeypox a global emergency.
“With monkeypox cases continuing to rise and spread to more countries, we now face a dual challenge: an endemic disease in Africa that has been neglected for decades, and a novel outbreak affecting marginalized communities,” Josie Golding, head of epidemics and epidemiology at the global health organization Wellcome, said in a statement, per the Post.
“Governments must take this more seriously and work together internationally to bring this outbreak under control,” she added.
Tedros noted that one of the chief reasons he decided to declare a global health emergency is the potential for stymieing the outbreak that is largely concentrated in men who have sex with men.
“That means that this is an outbreak that can be stopped with the right strategies in the right groups,” he said, adding that any containment measures should respect the “human rights and dignity” of the gay and bisexual community.
“Stigma and discrimination can be as dangerous as any virus,” he continued.
Meanwhile, per CNN, the United States confirmed its first two monkeypox cases in children on Friday. According to the CDC, the two cases are unrelated and are likely the result of household transmission.
Both children are showcasing symptoms but are in good health and receiving treatment with an antiviral medication.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Finance and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.