The World Health Organization said the escalating monkeypox outbreak in more than 50 countries should be closely monitored but does not warrant being declared a global health emergency.
In a statement Saturday, a WHO emergency committee said many aspects of the outbreak were "unusual" and acknowledged that monkeypox — which is endemic in some African countries — has been neglected for years.
"While a few members expressed differing views, the committee resolved by consensus to advise the WHO director-general that at this stage the outbreak should be determined to not constitute" a global health emergency, WHO said in a statement.
WHO nevertheless pointed to the "emergency nature" of the outbreak and said controlling its spread requires an "intense" response.
The committee said the outbreak should be "closely monitored and reviewed after a few weeks." But it would recommend a re-assessment before then if certain new developments emerge — such as cases among sex workers; spread to other countries or within countries that have already had cases; increased severity of cases; or an increasing rate of spread.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus convened the emergency committee on Thursday after expressing concern about the epidemic of monkeypox in countries that haven't previously reported the disease.
"What makes the current outbreak especially concerning is the rapid, continuing spread into new countries and regions and the risk of further, sustained transmission into vulnerable populations including people that are immunocompromised, pregnant women and children," the WHO chief said.
Monkeypox has sickened people for decades in central and west Africa, but until last month, the disease had not been known to cause significant outbreaks in multiple countries at the same time and involving people with no travel links to the continent.