A “public health emergency of international concern” is the organization’s loudest alarm bell. Here’s what it can accomplish.
On Saturday, July 23, World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the spread of monkeypox to be a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), the organization’s loudest alarm bell signifying an emerging outbreak.
Since early May, more than 16,000 cases of monkeypox have been identified across more than 60 countries. Disease caused by the monkeypox virus typically involves a few days of fever and lymph node swelling followed by a rash, which can leave scars. Most cases in the current outbreak have resolved without hospitalization or the need for medication. As of July 20, there have been five deaths, all of them in Africa.
The WHO first convened a committee in late June to determine whether monkeypox was a PHEIC. As cases have continued to rise worldwide, the committee reconvened on July 21 — and this time, the outcome was different.