The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday it was ending a 10-month-long global health emergency for monkeypox (now labeled mpox), a viral disease that led to confirmed cases in more than a hundred countries.
The organization declared monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern in July 2022 and backed its stand in November and February. Many saw the global emergency declaration as unnecessary, as the disease was confined to the homosexual community and could be prevented through sexual abstinence.
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 monkeypox, which spreads through direct contact with body fluids and causes flu-like symptoms and pus-filled skin lesions, has come under control.
Nicola Low, vice chair of WHO’s emergency committee on monkeypox, said there was a need to move to a strategy for managing the long-term public health risks of monkeypox than to rely on emergency measures.
The transition would mean including monkeypox response and preparedness under national disease surveillance programs such as those for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, Low said.
Almost 90% fewer monkeypox 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 monkeypox cases have been confirmed globally from the beginning of 2022 through May 8 this year, according to the WHO’s latest report. More than 94% of all cases were confirmed to have been among homosexual men, though the actual rate is believed to be higher.
WHO said it was particularly concerned about African countries which have been dealing with monkeypox 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.
Copyright 2023 Thomson/Reuters. Additions and edits for FISM News by Michael Cardinal