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Mpox no longer a global health emergency, says WHO

May 11, 2023

The World Health Organization has declared that mpox no longer constitutes a global health emergency. More than 87,000 cases were recorded in the past year, resulting in 140 deaths.

Symbolbild I Affenpocken Impfung I Monkeypox Vaccine
Image: Seth Wenig/AP/picture alliance

Almost exactly a year after declaring the spread of mpox a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), the World Health Organization (WHO) has officially lifted its warning following a steep fall in the number of cases.

But WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has cautioned that the disease still remains a threat, particularly in parts of Africa where it has long been present.

"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, adding that cases related to travel also represent an ongoing threat.

"Mpox continues to pose significant public health challenges that need a robust, proactive and sustainable response," he said, calling on countries to remain vigilant and continue to ensure access to tests and vaccines.

What is mpox?

Initially known as monkeypox, but since renamed mpox to avoid discriminatory or stigmatizing connotations, the disease is transmitted through close contact with infected humans or animals, as well as via materials such as contaminated sheets, and causes fever, muscular aches and large boil-like skin lesions.

Although known to be present in parts of Central and West Africa since the 1970s, mpox was declared a PHEIC in July 2022 after cases began to emerge across Europe, North America and elsewhere, particularly among gay and bisexual men.

Since then, the WHO has recorded more than 87,000 cases and 140 deaths in 111 countries.

In the last three months, however, mpox rates have dropped by almost 90% prompting the emergency status to be lifted – just as it was for COVID-19 one week ago.

"While the emergencies of mpox and Covid-19 are both over, the threat of resurgent waves remains for both," insisted Tedros.

"The work is not over … Both viruses continue to circulate and both continue to kill."

Now just one WHO-declared PHEIC remains; poliovirus, which was declared in May 2014.

Tedros: monkeypox "a public health emergency of international concern"

mf/jcg (AFP,dpa)