The World Health Organization is expected to declare the outbreak of monkeypox a global health emergency today.
The head of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, will address a virtual press conference on Saturday, July 22, at 1pm, the agency said in a statement late Friday.
Monkeypox has affected over 15,800 people in 72 countries, according to a tally by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published on July 20.
A surge in monkeypox infections has been reported since early May outside the West and Central African countries where the disease has long been endemic.
On June 23, the WHO convened an emergency committee (EC) of experts to decide if monkeypox constitutes a so-called Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) – the UN health agency’s highest alert level. But a majority advised the Tedros that the situation, at that point, had not met the threshold.
The second meeting was called on Thursday with case numbers rising further, where Tedros said he was worried.
‘I need your advice in assessing the immediate and mid-term public health implications,’ Tedros told the meeting, which lasted more than six hours.
A US health expert sounded a warning late Friday, July 22.
‘Since the last #monkeypox EC just weeks ago we’ve seen an exponential rise in cases,’ Lawrence Gostin, the director of the WHO Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law, said on Twitter.
‘It’s inevitable that cases will dramatically rise in the coming weeks & months. That’s why @DrTedros must sound the global alarm.’
‘A failure to act will have grave consequences for global health.’
The European Union’s drug watchdog on Friday recommended for approval the use of Imnavex, a smallpox vaccine, to treat monkeypox.
Imvanex was developed by Danish drugmaker Bavarian Nordic, and it has been approved in the EU since 2013 for the prevention of smallpox.