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WHO Calls Monkeypox Meeting

FILE: An employee of the vaccine company Bavarian Nordic works in a laboratory of the company in Martinsried near Munich, Germany, 5.24.2022

The World Health Organization said Thursday it would reconvene its expert monkeypox committee on July 21 to decide whether the outbreak constitutes a global health emergency.

A second meeting of the WHO's emergency committee on monkeypox will be held, with the UN health agency now aware of 9,200 cases in 63 countries at the last update issued Tuesday.

"The emergency committee will provide its views to the WHO director general on whether the event constitutes a PHEIC," the UN health agency said in a statement.

"If so, it will propose temporary recommendations on how to better prevent and reduce the spread of the disease and manage the global public health response."

The committee will look at trends, how effective the counter-measures are and make recommendations for what countries and communities should do to tackle the outbreak, Tedros told a press conference on Tuesday.

A statement will be issued in the days following the meeting.

The WHO's 16-member emergency committee on monkeypox is chaired by Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who is a former director of the WHO's Vaccines and Immunisation Department.

Tedros said the WHO was working closely with civil society and the LGBTQ community, "especially to tackle the stigma around the virus" and spread information to help people stay safe.

According to available statistics, almost all patients affected thus far are male, with a median age of 37, with three-fifths identifying as men who have sex with men, the WHO said.

The normal initial symptoms of monkeypox include a high fever, swollen lymph nodes and a blistery chickenpox-like rash.

The Geneva-based organization is also working with countries and experts to drive forward research and development.

"WHO continues to work with countries and vaccine manufacturers to coordinate the sharing of vaccines, which are currently scarce," he added.

"We must work to stop onward transmission and advise governments to implement contact tracing to help track and stem the virus as well as to assist people in isolation," Tedros said.

On June 23, the WHO convened an emergency committee of experts to decide if monkeypox constitutes a so-called Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) -- the highest alarm that the WHO can sound.

But a majority advised the WHO's chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus that the situation, at that point, had not met that threshold.

There have been six PHEIC declarations since 2009, the last being for Covid-19 in 2020 -- though the sluggish global response to the alarm bell still rankles at the WHO's headquarters.