As more monkeypox cases are being reported from different countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) convened its second meeting in a month as the emergency committee met on Thursday.
The committee deliberated whether the situation poses a major threat to public health and whether an "emergency of international concern" should be declared.
Declaring an emergency is the WHO's highest alert level for health threats, but it has no immediate consequences. It is meant to alert governments to take action to protect their populations. The WHO usually does not release information about the results of such deliberations on the same day.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the start of the meeting that he remained concerned about the increase in cases and countries reporting cases. However, he added that there was a downward trend in some countries. The fact that mostly men who have sexual contact with multiple other men are affected is problematic in the containment efforts due to "life-threatening discrimination," he said.
"In some countries, the communities affected face life-threatening discrimination. There is a very real concern that men who have sex with men could be stigmatized or blamed for the outbreak, making the outbreak much harder to track, and to stop," Tedros said.
As of July 20, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported more than 15,000 monkeypox cases this year, the vast majority in more than 60 countries where monkeypox was previously unknown.
The treatable disease, which is spread through close physical contact, features a rash that can look like pimples or blisters. The lesions usually first appear on the face before forming on other parts of the body.