Monkeypox has been declared a global emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO) who added that the expanding outbreak in more than 70 countries is an “extraordinary” situation.

The UN health agency’s declaration could spur further investment in treating the once-rare disease – and also worsen the scramble for scarce vaccines.

Although monkeypox has been established in parts of central and west Africa for decades, it was not known to spark large outbreaks beyond the continent or to spread widely among people until May, when authorities detected dozens of epidemics in Europe, North America and elsewhere.

Declaring a global emergency means the monkeypox outbreak is an “extraordinary event” that could spill over into more countries and requires a coordinated global response.

Swanage and Wareham Voice: The global emergency declaration is hoped to bring more resources to help tackle the disease (PA)The global emergency declaration is hoped to bring more resources to help tackle the disease (PA)

The WHO previously declared emergencies for public health crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak, the Zika virus in Latin America in 2016 and the ongoing effort to eradicate polio.

The emergency declaration mostly serves as a plea to draw more global resources and attention to an outbreak.

BBC News reported that more than 16,000 cases have now been reported from 75 countries.

WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the emergency committee had been unable to reach a consensus on whether the monkeypox outbreak should be classified as a global health emergency.

However, he said the outbreak had spread around the world rapidly and he had decided that it was indeed of international concern.

The emergency declaration mostly serves as a plea to draw more global resources and attention to an outbreak.

Past announcements have had a mixed impact, given that the UN health agency is largely powerless in getting countries to act.