The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the monkeypox outbreak a global health emergency as the disease affected more than 16,000 people across 74 countries.

The announcement was made by WHO’s emergency committee, which sounded the highest alarm after a surge affected thousands globally. According to the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 16,000 cases globally, including in 68 countries where the virus isn’t typically seen. Of those cases, more than 2,800 were in the U.S.

"I have decided that the global monkeypox outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern," said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press conference.

According to Ghebreyesus, a committee of experts which met last Thursday was unable to reach a consensus regarding the ongoing outbreak, so the decision to trigger the highest possible alert fell to him.

"WHO's assessment is that the risk of monkeypox is moderate globally and in all regions, except in the European region where we assess the risk as high," he added.

To that end, Dr. Richard Kennedy, co-director of Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group, also weighed in, stating the declaration meant the monkeypox outbreak has spread far beyond what we see in typical outbreaks, and will likely require a collective global effort to stop. He added the declaration served as a warning to the global community the outbreak was a serious public health issue.

Washington has also welcomed WHO’s declaration, stating it’s a call of action for the world community to stop the spread of the virus.

"A coordinated, international response is essential to stop the spread of monkeypox, protect communities at greatest risk of contracting the disease, and combat the current outbreak," said Raj Panjabi, senior director for the White House's global health security and biodefense division.

Since May, a surge of monkeypox infections has steadily increased across the globe, outside of West and Central African countries where the disease is endemic.

Overall, around 98% of the infected people were either gay or bisexual men, a third of which were known to have visited sex-on-site venues, including sex parties or saunas.