The World Health Organization said on Saturday the outbreak, which has affected nearly 16,000 people in 72 countries, was a global health emergency – the highest alarm it could sound.
Monkeypox, so called because it was first discovered in a monkey, is related to the deadly smallpox virus, which was eradicated in 1980, but is much less serious.
The strain currently circulating outside of Africa is the milder of the two known versions. Human monkeypox was first identified in 1970 in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) in a nine-year-old boy.
It is becoming endemic in the tropical rainforests of central and western Africa, where 11 countries are reporting cases.
The virus is transmitted by close contact with infected animals, mainly rodents, or humans.
In June 2003, the disease surfaced in the United States – the first time it was detected outside of Africa.
The disease is thought to have spread after rodents, imported from Ghana to the United States, infected prairie dogs.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 87 cases but no deaths.
2017 brings a major outbreak to Nigeria, with more than 200 confirmed cases and a mortality rate of around three percent, according to the WHO.
Over the next five years, sporadic cases are being reported globally in travelers from Nigeria, including Britain, Israel, Singapore and the United States.
In May 2022, a wave of cases is detected in countries outside Africa, in people with no travel links to the region. Most of those affected are homosexuals.
Europe is the epicenter of the new epidemic.
As of May 20, Britain had recorded 20 cases, mostly in gay men.
On the same date, the WHO counted 80 confirmed cases worldwide, notably in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.
On May 23, the United States said it was preparing to administer vaccines against smallpox, effective against monkeypox, to people who had been in close contact with monkeypox patients.
Three days later, the European Union says it is working to centralize vaccine purchases, as it did for Covid-19.
In early June, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said more than 1,000 confirmed cases of monkeypox had been reported to the WHO in 29 countries where the virus is not usually present.
On June 21, Great Britain announces its intention to offer vaccines to gay and bisexual men with multiple sexual partners.
WHO experts meet on June 23 to discuss the threat but decide monkeypox is not a global public health emergency.
On July 8, the French health authorities are also launching preventive shots for people considered to be at risk, in particular homosexuals, trans people and sex workers.
On July 14, the US CDC reports more than 11,000 confirmed cases in about 60 countries where monkeypox is not usually present. Most cases are in Europe, the United States and Canada.
The number of infections in New York doubles in less than a week to several hundred. People line up for vaccines, which are in short supply.
On July 20, Tedros announces that nearly 14,000 confirmed cases have been reported to WHO this year, from more than 70 countries, with five deaths, all in Africa.
He says six countries reported their first cases the previous week, while some states have limited access to diagnostics and vaccines, making the outbreak harder to track and stop.
The WHO is convening a new meeting of experts on July 21 to decide whether or not to declare a global health emergency.
On Saturday, Tedros announces that the monkeypox outbreak is a “public health emergency of international concern.”
look WHO declares monkeypox a global health emergency as infections soar