The World Health Organization will convene an emergency committee on Thursday next week to assess whether the monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern.
That is the highest level of warning issued by the UN agency, which currently applies only to the COVID-19 pandemic and polio.
Canadian heading WHO’s fight against monkeypox
There have been 1,600 confirmed and 1,500 suspected cases of monkeypox this year and 72 deaths, WHO said, in 39 countries, including the countries where the virus usually spreads.
As of June 10, Canada has reported 112 cases of monkeypox, the government said.
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Monkeypox is endemic in parts of Africa but there have been more cases both in those countries and the rest of the world. The virus causes flu-like symptoms and skin lesions, and spreads through close contact.
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WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that it was time to consider stepping up the response because the virus is behaving unusually, more countries are affected, and there is a need for international co-ordination.
“We don’t want to wait until the situation is out of control,” said WHO’s emergencies director for Africa, Ibrahima Socé Fall.