WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has convened the emergency committee for next week out of concern about the increasing number of cases of monkeypox around the world.

The committee is to decide whether – as in the case of Corona – it is a “health emergency of international concern” (PHEIC). The emergency committee is scheduled to meet on June 23, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday.

The declaration of emergency is the highest level of alert that the WHO can impose. Such a declaration has no direct practical consequences, but is intended to wake up the member countries. An emergency has been in effect since the end of January 2020 due to the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus.

As of Tuesday, the WHO had reported more than 1,600 cases of monkeypox worldwide and nearly 1,500 suspected cases from 39 countries. 32 of those countries had no known cases before May. The virus has been rampant in the other seven countries in Africa for decades. So far, 72 deaths have been reported from African countries. The WHO is investigating a possible death from monkeypox from Brazil, Tedros said.

The WHO’s concern relates to three areas, said Tedros: the virus is behaving unusually, more and more countries are being affected and a coordinated response is therefore necessary. However, Tedros emphasized that the experts on the emergency committee are looking at the problem and have not yet decided whether they consider it necessary to declare an emergency.

“We don’t want to wait for the situation to get out of hand,” said WHO specialist Ibrahima Socé Fall. The committee brings together experts who are particularly familiar with the disease. They could best advise the WHO on what action to take, Fall said.