WHO declares end to mpox public health emergency

WHO declares end to mpox public health emergency

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday it was ending its 10-month-long global health emergency for mpox, a viral disease that led to confirmed cases in more than a hundred countries.

The organization declared mpox a public health emergency of international concern in July 2022 and backed its stand in November and February.

The WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, declared the end of the emergency status for the disease based on the recommendation of the organization’s emergency committee, which met on Wednesday.

The move signals that the crisis due to mpox, which spreads through direct contact with body fluids and causes flu-like symptoms and pus-filled skin lesions, has come under control.

Mpox is a less severe cousin of the now-eradicated smallpox virus. It is endemic to parts of West and Central Africa and has typically been contracted from a rodent or small mammal. The virus can spread through contact with body fluids, sores or items such as clothing and bedding contaminated with the virus. Also, it can be spread from person to person through respiratory droplets, typically in a close setting.

Nicola Low, vice chair of WHO’s emergency committee on mpox, said there was a need to move to a strategy for managing the long-term public health risks of mpox than to rely on emergency measures.

The transition would mean including mpox response and preparedness under national disease surveillance programs such as those for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, Low said.

Almost 90% fewer mpox cases were reported in the past three months, compared with cases in the same duration before that, the WHO chief said.

More than 87,000 mpox cases have been confirmed globally from the beginning of 2022 through May 8 this year, according to the WHO’s latest report.

WHO said it was particularly concerned about African countries which have been dealing with mpox long before the global outbreak began, and could continue to deal with it for some time to come.

The WHO recently also declared an end of public health emergency status for COVID-19.

“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,” Tedros said.

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