WHO declares end to mpox public health emergency

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says the decision was prompted by falling case numbers worldwide.

mpox vaccine
A vial containing the mpox vaccine and a syringe is set on the table at a vaccination clinic run by the Mecklenburg County Public Health Department in Charlotte, North Carolina, United States [File: Nell Redmond/AP Photo]

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said it is ending a 10-month-long global health emergency for mpox, a viral disease that led to confirmed cases in more than 100 countries.

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

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Thursday announced the end of the emergency status for the disease based on the recommendation of the organisation’s emergency committee, which met the previous day.

Tedros said the decision was prompted by falling case numbers worldwide, but emphasised that the disease remained a threat, particularly in areas of Africa where it has long been present.

The announcement came just a week after the UN agency also declared that COVID-19 no longer constituted a PHEIC, its highest level of alarm.

“However, as with COVID-19, that does not mean that the work is over,” Tedros told an online news conference.

Long-term strategy

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

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

Almost 90 percent 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.

Source: News Agencies