The World Health Organization is weighing whether to declare monkeypox an international emergency — a decision that could come as early as Friday. A declaration could escalate the global response as cases rapidly rise in Britain despite efforts to contain it.
Britain, where almost 800 cases of the virus have been recorded in the past month, has the highest reported number of infections outside of Central and West Africa — and case trends here are worrying experts throughout Europe, the epicenter of the outbreak, who are weighing the best approach in the midst of the years-long coronavirus pandemic.
Monkeypox cases rose almost 40 percent in Britain in under five days, according to data shared by the U.K. Health Security Agency. As of June 16, 574 cases had been recorded, and by June 20, the number had risen to 793.
After Britain, Spain, Germany and Portugal have the most recorded cases. And it’s a growing threat outside of Europe: More than 3,200 cases have been confirmed across 48 nations in the past six weeks, according to the WHO, which publishes data on monkeypox in weekly intervals. As of June 15, one death had been reported .
The WHO’s International Health Regulations Emergency Committee met Thursday to discuss whether the monkeypox outbreak should be labeled a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern,” which would mobilize new funding and spur governments into action. The novel coronavirus, which causes covid-19, was labeled a PHEIC following a similar meeting in January 2020.