WHO Declares Mpox No Longer Global Health Emergency

The World Health Organization on Thursday declared mpox — formerly known as monkeypox — no longer poses a global public health emergency.

At a briefing at agency headquarters in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the organization’s emergency committee on mpox met and recommended the multi-country outbreak no longer represents a public health emergency of international concern, and that he accepted that recommendation.

One major factor in the decision Tedros cited was a nearly 90% drop in cases of the disease during the last three months compared to the previous three months.

The WHO chief credited the sharp drop in cases to the work of community organizations and public health authorities around the world. The United Nations-linked health body noted that organizational efforts to inform the public of the risks of mpox, encouraging and supporting behavior change, and advocating for access to tests, vaccines and treatments, were critical.

But Tedros warned mpox continues to pose significant public health challenges that require “a robust, proactive and sustainable response.” In fact, Wednesday the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a new cluster of cases were reported in Chicago.

Symptoms of mpox often include a rash that may be located on hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth or near the genitals, as well as fever, chills, and fatigue.

The WHO reported 98% of cases are among men who have sex with other men and can be spread from person to person through sexual contact, kissing, hugging and through contaminated clothing, towels and bed sheets.

In his briefing, Tedros said the misinformed stigma that mpox is a “gay disease” had been a driving concern in managing the epidemic, adding that it continues to hamper access to care for the disease. A feared much larger backlash against the most affected communities with mpox has largely not materialized.

As the outbreak expanded late last year, a trend of racist and stigmatizing language online and in some communities toward the term “monkeypox” was reported to the WHO. After consultations with international experts, the agency adopted mpox as a new, preferred term for the disease.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France Presse.

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