In late June, the WHO’s Emergency Committee determined that the outbreak did not meet the criteria for such a declaration.
But as the virus continues to spread, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wants the commission to revisit the issue based on the latest data on the epidemiology and evolution of the epidemic.
Tedros said on Wednesday that he would convene the committee during the week of July 18 or earlier if necessary.
“Testing remains a challenge and it is very likely that there are a significant number of cases that are not accepted,” he added. “Europe is the current epicenter of the epidemic, accounting for more than 80% of cases worldwide.”
Monkeypox, a viral disease, occurs mostly in central and western Africa, where the virus is endemic, but as part of the latest epidemic, the virus has spread to many regions of the world where it is not normally found.
Cases are also being reported in African countries previously unaffected by the virus, and those places where the virus is endemic are seeing record numbers, Tedros said on Wednesday. WHO teams are closely monitoring the data, he said.
WHO is working with countries and vaccine manufacturers to coordinate the sharing of monkeypox vaccines, which are in short supply. The organization also works with groups to break down the stigma surrounding the virus and spread information to protect people.
Early data on the epidemic show that gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men make up a large number of reported cases, leading to concerns about the stigmatization of the disease and the LGBTQ community.
However, anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has the virus may be at risk.
It can also be spread through respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact or during intimate physical contact such as kissing, cuddling, or sex.
The rash goes through different stages, developing into pustules before it heals.
Monkeypox testing in the US is on the rise
In the United States, efforts are underway to increase testing for the virus.
Commercial laboratory company Labcorp will begin testing for monkeypox on Wednesday at its largest facility in the United States, doubling the nation’s testing capacity for the virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The ability of commercial laboratories to test for monkeypox is a key pillar in our comprehensive strategy to combat this disease,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday. “Not only will this increase testing capacity, but it will make it more convenient for providers and patients to access tests by leveraging existing provider-laboratory relationships.”
If someone thinks they may have a monkeypox infection, the provider will need to order a test. “The public will not be able to go to a Labcorp laboratory and submit a specimen,” the CDC statement said.
CDC’s Laboratory Response Network conducts most of the specific testing for monkeypox in the US, but on June 22 the US Department of Health and Human Services announced that testing for monkeypox will expand to five commercial laboratories: Aegis Science, Labcorp, Mayo Clinic Laboratories, Quest Diagnostics and Sonic Healthcare.
The CDC confirmed Wednesday that it had sent tests to the labs and that their staff had been trained how to administer the tests. “CDC expects additional commercial laboratories to come online and monkeypox testing capacity will continue to increase throughout the month of July.”
CNN’s Naomi Thomas contributed to this report.