Monkeypox is not yet a global health emergency, the World Health Organisation has ruled, although director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says he is deeply concerned about the outbreak.
There have been more than 3200 confirmed cases of monkeypox and one death reported in the past six weeks from 48 countries where it does not usually spread, according to WHO.
So far this year almost 1500 cases and 70 deaths in central Africa, where the disease is more common, have also been reported, chiefly in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"I am deeply concerned about the monkeypox outbreak, this is clearly an evolving health threat that my colleagues and I in the WHO secretariat are following extremely closely," Tedros said on Saturday.
WHO also said that although there were differing views within the committee, it ultimately agreed that at this stage the outbreak was not a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
The "global emergency" label applies only to the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing efforts to eradicate polio, and the UN agency has stepped back from applying it to the monkeypox outbreak after advice from a meeting of international experts.
Monkeypox, a viral illness causing flu-like symptoms and skin lesions, has been spreading largely in men who have sex with men outside the countries where it is endemic.
Vaccines and treatments are available for monkeypox, although they are in limited supply.
Some global health experts said WHO may be have been hesitant to make a declaration because its January 2020 declaration that the new coronavirus represented a public health emergency was largely met with scepticism.
Gregg Gonsalves, an associate professor of epidemiology at Yale University who advised the committee, told Reuters the decision was "misguided".
"It met all the criteria but they decided to punt on this momentous decision," he said.
Australian Associated Press
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