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Mpox no longer a global health emergency: WHO

Mpox no longer a global health emergency: WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that mpox is no longer a global public health emergency as cases of the disease have fallen sharply in recent months. 

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of WHO, said at a media briefing on Thursday that the agency’s emergency committee recommended to him the day before that the outbreak of mpox, which began last July, “no longer represents a public health emergency of international concern.” 

“I have accepted that advice and am pleased to declare that mpox is no longer a global health emergency,” Tedros said. 

He said the virus has caused more than 87,000 cases and 140 deaths in 111 countries that have been reported to WHO, but the agency has been encouraged by countries’ response to the virus. He said WHO has seen “steady progress” in controlling the disease’s spread based on lessons learned from experiences with HIV and working with the most vulnerable communities. 

The virus quickly spread last year throughout the United States and other countries around the world in vulnerable populations, especially men who have sex with men. Health officials urged gay and bisexual men to take certain precautions to ensure they stay safe amid the outbreak. 

The virus belongs to the same family of viruses that includes smallpox, allowing treatments and vaccines for smallpox, such as the Jynneos vaccine, to be used. 

Health experts noted that the LGBTQ community was particularly positioned to be able to manage the outbreak because of its experience with the HIV and AIDS epidemic. A survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that half of men who have sex with men said they reduced their sexual activity because of the spread of mpox. 

Tedros said almost 90 percent fewer mpox cases were reported in the past three months than the three preceding that. 

“In particular, the work of community organizations, together with public health authorities, has been critical for informing people of the risks of mpox, encouraging and supporting behavior change, and advocating for access to tests, vaccines and treatments to be accessible to those most in need,” he said. 

The WHO news came even as the CDC said it is investigating a new set of mpox cases in the Chicago area.

“A cluster of mpox cases have been reported in the Chicago area, which means the virus is still spreading, and we need to continue to be alert. More than 50% of cases in the cluster have been in people who have been previously vaccinated,” the CDC said Wednesday.

The Biden administration ended the public health emergency for mpox in the U.S. in January. The seven-day rolling average of cases in the U.S. has been no more than a few on any given day since then. 

More than 30,000 cases were confirmed in the U.S. 

Tedros said the end of the global public health emergency does not mean measures to counteract the disease can also end. He said the virus is continuing to affect communities in all regions of the world, especially in Africa. 

He said countries should maintain their testing capabilities and continue to assess and quantify their needs to respond to the virus. 

WHO’s announcement came less than a week after the agency downgraded COVID-19 to no longer declare it a global public health emergency. 

“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. And while two public health emergencies have ended in the past week, every day WHO continues to respond to 50+ emergencies,” Tedros said.

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