Why declaring monkeypox a global health emergency is a preventative step -- not a reason for panic

Countries that are members of the United Nations are obligated to report cases of unusual diseases that have the potential to become global health threats. In May 2022, more than a dozen countries in Europe, the Americas and other regions of the world that had never before had cases of monkeypox started to report cases occurring within their borders.

In response, the director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, convened a monkeypox emergency committee to track the evolving situation. At the committee’s first meeting on June 23, 2022, the members observed that the “multi-country outbreak” might be stabilizing as case counts had plateaued in several countries.

However, after thousands more cases of monkeypox were diagnosed in dozens of countries in July, it became clear that the outbreak had not stagnated. On July 23, 2022, Tedros declared monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern.

As a global health expert who specializes in infectious disease epidemiology I do not think that most people need to be worried about monkeypox. This decision by the WHO, though it may sound ominous, is not a sign of bad things to come. Rather, it is a way to prevent monkeypox from becoming a global crisis.

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