Everything you need to know about the monkeypox health emergency

Everything you need to know about the monkeypox health emergency

Comprehensive guide —

Global cases have topped 30,000, and the US is scrambling to vaccinate thousands.


Enlarge / A negative stain electron micrograph of a monkeypox virus virion in human vesicular fluid.

On May 7, health officials in the UK reported a case of monkeypox in a person who had recently traveled to Nigeria. The case was very rare but not necessarily alarming; a small number of travel-related cases of monkeypox pop up now and then. The UK logged seven such cases between 2018 and 2021. But this year, the cases kept coming.

By May 16, the UK had reported six additional cases, mostly unconnected, and all unrelated to travel, suggesting domestic transmission. On May 18, Portugal reported five confirmed cases and more than 20 suspected ones. The same day, health officials in Massachusetts reported the first US case. Spain, meanwhile, issued an outbreak alert after 23 people showed signs of the unusual infection. Cases in Italy and Sweden followed.

In the past, monkeypox transmission largely fizzled out on its own. Experts did not consider the virus to be easily transmissible. Still, the cases kept coming. By May 26, the multinational outbreak had exceeded 300 cases in over 20 countries. At the time, the US had only nine cases confirmed, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that it presumed domestic community transmission was already underway. In early June, the global tally exceeded 1,300 from 31 countries, including 45 cases in the US.

As June turned into July, health experts around the world scrambled to address the mushrooming outbreak. On July 23, with global cases at over 16,000 from more than 70 countries, the World Health Organization declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC). It’s the agency’s highest level of alert—and a level many health experts said should have been reached in June.

Soon after the PHEIC declaration, the US took the global lead for the highest monkeypox case tally. And on August 4, with over 6,600 cases in 48 states, the US government declared the outbreak a public health emergency.

As of August 9, just over four months since the first case was reported in the UK, there are more than 30,000 monkeypox cases reported from at least 88 countries, including at least 11 deaths. The US case count is now over 8,900.

Below is a practical reference guide for all the important information on this global and national health emergency. The guide will be updated periodically as new information becomes available.

Read More