The World Health Organization declared monkeypox a global health emergency on Saturday.
The W.H.O. director general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said monkeypox is now a “public health emergency of international concern,” given “we have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission, about which we understand too little, and which meets the criteria.”
The disease has been identified in over 16,000 cases across 75 countries, said Dr. Ghebreyesus.
At this point, nearly all of the infected cases are among men who have sex with men, The New York Times reported, but the W.H.O. director general warned not to over-emphasize the spread in this community, as "stigma and discrimination can be as dangerous as any virus."
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said initial symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscle ache, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, and “a rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appear on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus.”
Earlier today, the CDC announced the first two cases of monkeypox in children. "This is an outbreak that can be stopped with the right strategies in the right groups," Dr. Ghebreyesus said.
The CDC said it was “supportive” of WHO's emergency declaration and hoped it would galvanize international action to stamp out the outbreaks. The U.S. has reported more than 2,800 monkeypox cases and sent more than 370,000 vaccine doses to U.S. states reporting cases.
In May, President Joe Biden said the spread of the illness was “to be concerned about.” The U.S. government had agreed to buy “a freeze-dried version of the smallpox vaccine [designed for monkeypox], thus allowing for the first doses of this version to be manufactured and invoiced in 2023 and 2024.”