WHO meeting on monkeypox, possible global health emergency

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The World Health Organization (WHO) is meeting Thursday to discuss the monkeypox virus outbreak, and decide if it warrants being declared a global health emergency.

With thousands of cases reported in tens of countries around the world, the declaration would mean that the United Nations health agency considers the spread of the disease to be an "extraordinary event," with the risk of further transmission.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called the outbreak "unusual and concerning."

In Africa, where monkeypox is endemic in some countries, it has sickened people for decades, with one version of it killing up to 10% of the infected.

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However, beyond Africa, no deaths have been reported and scientists have yet to find any major genetic changes in the virus.

In the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are now more than 150 confirmed monkeypox and orthopoxvirus cases.

Forty of those cases are in California, 22 are in New York, 19 are in Illinois and 16 are in Florida.

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Although the majority of new monkeypox cases have been seen in gay or bisexual men, experts caution that anyone is at potential risk.

This photograph taken on March 5, 2021 shows a sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) at the entrance of their headquarters in Geneva. <span class="copyright"> FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images</span>
This photograph taken on March 5, 2021 shows a sign of the World Health Organization (WHO) at the entrance of their headquarters in Geneva. FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images

People normally become infected with the monkeypox virus through contact with the skin lesions or bodily fluids of infected animals or humans or through contact with materials contaminated with the virus.

Monkeypox, which is related to smallpox, has milder symptoms.

Some of those symptoms include fever, chills, rash and aches, before lesions develop.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.