WHO Declares Mpox No Longer a Worldwide Health Emergency
Nearly one year after the disease once known as monkeypox began spreading worldwide, the World Health Organisation decided on Thursday that it no longer represents a public health emergency.
The decision, according to WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, was motivated by a drop in global case counts, but he highlighted that the illness still poses a concern, particularly in parts of Africa where it has long been present.
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The declaration follows the UN agency’s announcement a week earlier that Covid-19 no longer represents a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), the highest level of worry.
“However, as with Covid-19, that does not mean that the work is over,” Mr Tedros told an online press conference.
“While the emergencies of Mpox and Covid-19 are both over, the threat of resurgent waves remains for both. Both viruses continue to circulate and both continue to kill,” Mr Tedros said.
Although the disease has long been present in some areas of Central and West Africa, cases of it began to appear in Europe, North America, and other places in May of last year, especially among males who have intercourse with other men.
In July, the WHO classified Mpox as a PHEIC. But since then, the number of cases of the illness, which is characterized by fever, aches in the muscles, and big lesions that resemble boils on the skin, has steadily decreased. During the global outbreak, 111 nations have recorded more than 87,000 cases, and 140 people have died as a result, according to a WHO figure.
According to Mr. Tedros, the number of instances over the last three months was about 90% lower than it was over the preceding three months. “While we welcome the downward trend of Mpox cases globally, the virus continues to affect communities in all regions, including in Africa, where transmission is still not well understood,” he said. He added that cases related to travel also represented an ongoing threat.
“Mpox continues to pose significant public health challenges that need a robust, proactive, and sustainable response,” he added, calling on countries to maintain surveillance and access to tests and vaccines. Because men who have sex with other men account for the vast majority of infections worldwide, there were concerns that discrimination might taint the outbreak’s response.
“Stigma has been a driving concern in managing this epidemic and continues to restrict access to care for Mpox,” Mr. Tedros said. “However, the feared backlash against the most affected communities has largely not materialized.”
He further emphasized that untreated HIV patients are more vulnerable to Mpox. Close contact with infected people or animals can spread the monkeypox virus, which causes the Mpox disease, as can things like contaminated bedding. It was identified in humans for the first time in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1970. Its human population spread was primarily confined to a few West and Central African countries until May of last year. After the emergency status was lifted for Covid and Mpox, there is now just one WHO-declared PHEIC — for poliovirus, which was declared in May 2014.