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The World Health Organization backed away from declaring monkeypox a global emergency, even as more than 3,000 cases of the virus have been detected in 50 countries since early May, the Washington Post reported.
The WHO’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee opted to describe the pathogen as an “evolving health threat,” instead of labeling the outbreak a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” (PHEIC).
Known as the highest level of alert the organization can issue, the PHEIC would have prompted global governments to take action and poured new funding into tackling the outbreak.
In January 2020, the WHO labeled the coronavirus as a PHEIC.
Still, the committee agreed that the current outbreak requires “coordinated action” to stop the further spread of the monkeypox virus through public health measures such as monitoring, contact tracing and patient care.
Monkeypox is spread through close contact and has so far mainly affected gay men: It starts with flu-like symptoms before fluid-filled lumps or lesions begin emerging on the skin. The latest outbreak has also included symptoms such as genital rashes.
Health officials noted that most cases are mild and patients recover in three weeks. Still, the virus can be fatal to people with compromised immune systems and pregnant women.
The pathogen has been circulating in some African countries for decades but there has been little research or focus on the virus.
WHO officials said last week that nearly 1,500 suspected cases of monkeypox and about 70 deaths have been reported in central Africa this year.
Currently, Britain has the highest recorded number of infections outside of Central and West Africa, tallying nearly 800 cases in the past month.
At least 100 cases have been discovered in the United States since the virus was first detected on May 17.