As the world continues to learn how to live in the age of COVID-19, a new disease is now getting the attention of public health officials. Understandably, people are on high alert about any pathogens with the potential for COVID-19-level effects, and monkeypox is climbing up the list of diseases the World Health Organization is worried about.

On Saturday, WHO announced that the monkeypox outbreak, which has now appeared in more than 70 countries, is an “extraordinary” situation. The global organization went on to say that the disease qualifies as a global emergency. The announcement has the potential to both increase investment in treatment for the illness, as well as make the existing vaccines even more scarce.

Tedros Adhanom

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“We have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission about which we understand too little and which meets the criteria in the international health regulations,” said WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The declaration was made without a consensus decision among the organization’s emergency committee. It marks the first time the head of WHO has taken such an action. “I know this has not been an easy or straightforward process and that there are divergent views among the members,” acknowledged Ghebreyesus.

Monkeypox is by no means a new disease. It has been found in central and west Africa for decades. What is new, however, is that it is now spreading outside of the continent, as tens of monkeypox epidemics have been found in North America, Europe, and beyond.