The World Health Organization has declared Monkeypox virus a global health emergency of international concern following increase in number of cases.
This is the highest alert level for the UN agency.
The rare designation means the WHO now views the outbreak as a threat to global health which requires a coordinated international response to prevent the virus from spreading further and potentially escalating into a pandemic.
More than 16,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported across 75 countries so far this year.
The number of confirmed infections spiked 77% from late June through early July, according to WHO data.
Five deaths from the virus have been reported in Africa this year. No deaths have been reported outside Africa so far.
Most people are recovering from monkeypox in two to four weeks, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The virus causes a painful rash which looks like pimples or blisters that can spread over the body.
Monkey pox is not a new virus but the current monkeypox outbreak is highly unusual because it is spreading widely in North American and European nations where the virus is not usually found.
Historically, monkeypox has spread at low levels in remote parts of West and Central Africa.
Europe is currently the global epicenter of the outbreak, reporting more than 80% of confirmed infections worldwide in 2022.
In early May, the United Kingdom reported a case of monkeypox in a person who recently returned from travel to Nigeria.
The U.S. has reported more than 2,000 cases across 43 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.
The WHO last issued a global health emergency in January 2020 in response to the Covid-19 outbreak and two months later declared it a pandemic.
Monkeypox is not a new virus
In contrast to Covid-19, monkeypox is not a new virus. Scientists first discovered monkeypox in 1958 in captive monkeys used for research in Denmark, and confirmed the first case of a human infected with the virus in 1970 in the nation of Zaire, now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Monkeypox is in the same virus family as smallpox, though it causes milder disease.
In the past, monkeypox normally began with symptoms similar to the flu, including fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, exhaustion and swollen lymph nodes.
The disease then progressed into a rash that can spread over the body.
Patients are considered most infectious when the rash develops.
But in the current outbreak some people are developing a rash first, while others are showing a rash without any flu-like symptoms at all.
Many patients have developed a localized rash on their genitals and anus.
Because monkeypox is not a new virus, there are already vaccines and antivirals to prevent and treat the disease it causes, though they are in short supply.
The U.S. is already distributing tens of thousands of doses of a vaccine called Jynneos in an effort to quash the outbreak.
The Food and Drug Administration approved the two-dose vaccine in 2019 for adults ages 18 and older who are at high risk of monkeypox or smallpox infection, CNBC reported.
Ifunanya Ikueze is an Engineer, Safety Professional, Writer, Investor, Entrepreneur and Educator.