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WHO: Monkeypox is an ‘Evolving Health Threat’

June 27, 2022

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that monkeypox had not yet reached global public health emergency status but remains an “evolving health threat.”

In a statement Saturday, the WHO's top official said the virus is still a public health challenge that requires a coordinated response across the world. WHO leaders met on Thursday to discuss the current spread of the virus and to determine if the virus met the criteria to be considered a global health emergency.

“What makes the current outbreak especially concerning is the rapid, continuing spread into new countries and regions and the risk of further, sustained transmission into vulnerable populations including people that are immunocompromised, pregnant women, and children,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Here’s the latest update on the virus:

  • Cases:  As of today, there have been 4,265 confirmed cases, including 201 in the U.S. The virus has been detected in about 50 countries.
  • Emergency declaration:  WHO leaders last week determined the virus had not yet reached the status of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, the highest public health alert level. The agency said the world must remain vigilant to address and respond to the virus. The meeting itself reflected the increasing concern about the international spread of the virus.
  • A new name:  WHO leaders have committed to “changing the name of monkeypox virus, its clades, and the disease it causes.” Earlier this month, a group of leading international scientists requested the name change, noting “the context of the current global outbreak, continued reference to, and nomenclature of this virus being African is not only inaccurate but is also discriminatory and stigmatizing.” 
  • Transmission​:  The virus is spread through close, sustained skin-to-skin contact with someone who has an active rash. It is less commonly spread through respiratory droplets from someone who has lesions in their mouth and is around others for an extended period of time.
  • Quotable:  “This is clearly an evolving health threat that my colleagues and I in the WHO Secretariat are following extremely closely,” Dr. Tedros said.

Last week, HHS announced it had begun shipping tests to five commercial laboratory companies in an effort to expand testing capacity.

“All Americans should be concerned about monkeypox cases. Thankfully we have right now the tools to fight and treat cases in America,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said. “By dramatically expanding the number of testing locations throughout the country, we are making it possible for anyone who needs to be tested to do so.”

More information about monkeypox and the CDC’s response is available online. Additional information for clinicians also is available.