WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he decided to convene the emergency committee on June 23 because the virus has shown “unusual” recent behaviour by spreading in countries well beyond parts of Africa where it is endemic.
“We believe that it needs also some coordinated response because of the geographic spread,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
Declaring monkeypox to be an international health emergency would give it the same designation as the Covid-19 pandemic and mean that WHO considers the normally rare disease a continuing threat to countries globally.
Dr Ibrahima Soce Fall, WHO’s emergencies director for Africa, said case counts were growing every day and health officials face “many gaps in terms of knowledge of the dynamics of the transmission” – both in Africa and beyond.
“With the advice from the emergency committee, we can be in a better position to control the situation. But it doesn’t mean that we are going straight to a public health emergency of international concern,” he said, referring to WHO’s highest level of alert for viral outbreaks.