ANS: The World Health Organisation on Saturday sounded its highest level of alarm for monkeypox, declaring it a ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern’.

The Emergency Committee under International Health Regulations, which met Thursday to review the new numbers, did not, however, reach a consensus on announcing a public health emergency.

This is the seventh time the highest alarm level is being used since 2009. These are the earlier instances: H1N1 pandemic (2009), increasing polio cases (2014), Ebola outbreak in Western Africa (2014), Zika virus epidemic (2015-16), Kivu Ebola epidemic in Democratic Republic of Congo (2018-20), and Covid-19.

“Our (WHO) assessment is that the risk of monkeypox is moderate globally and in all regions, except in the European region where we assess the risk as high. There is also a clear risk of further international spread, although the risk of interference with international traffic remains low for the moment,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General while briefing to the media.

“So in short, 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,” he added.

There are vaccines available for monkeypox, but those supplies are strained.

Notably, over 16,000 monkeypox cases have been reported from 75 countries. India has reported three cases of viral illness from Kerala, with the Union Health Ministry issuing guidelines for its surveillance.

Earlier this week, the ministry instructed port authorities to conduct strict screening of international travellers and coordinate with agencies such as immigration departments at international ports and airports to streamline health screening processes besides ensuring linkages with hospital facilities earmarked to each port of entry.

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