By Ashley Sadler
The World Health Organization (WHO) is set to convene an “Emergency Committee” next week in which members will discuss the extent of the global threat posed by the monkeypox virus.
In the meeting scheduled to take place next Thursday, public health experts with the U.N. agency will determine whether to declare monkeypox a “public health emergency of international concern,” Reuters reported.
The outlet noted that such a declaration would place the virus within the WHO’s “the highest level of warning,” which is currently reserved only for COVID-19 and polio.
WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who was re-elected to his position last month, announced the meeting in a June 14 tweet in which he called the outbreak “unusual & concerning” and noted the WHO will also rename the virus.
“For that reason I have decided to convene the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations next week, to assess whether this outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern,” he wrote.
"The 🌍 outbreak of #monkeypox is unusual & concerning. For that reason I have decided to convene the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations next week, to assess whether this outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern"-@DrTedros
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) June 14, 2022
Legacy media outlets and public health authorities have begun warning of the international spread of the virus, which is endemic to some parts of Africa, following reports of people testing positive for monkeypox in other countries around the world.
According to the WHO, there have been 1,600 confirmed and 1,500 suspected cases of monkeypox this year throughout 39 countries, including those countries in which the virus more typically spreads. Seventy-two people are reported to have died of the virus, predominantly in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
To date, 65 cases of the virus have been spotted in the United States, and no Americans have died. The largest percentage of cases per state have been reported in California and New York, which have logged 15 and 11 infections, respectively.
Nonetheless, and despite the fact that the virus appears to be transmitted predominantly among homosexual men, the CDC announced that it expects monkeypox to spread throughout the United States.
Last month U.S. President Joe Biden said all Americans should be “concerned” about monkeypox.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) upped its monkeypox warning level for travelers, generating backlash after initially adding an advisory that travelers wear face masks to guard against the new virus.
The WHO is set to rename the so-called monkeypox virus to “avoid causing offense to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups,” Time Magazine reported.