GENEVA, Switzerland – The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a declaration on Thursday, May 11, 2023 stating the mpox outbreak no longer poses a global health emergency.
This announcement marks a significant milestone in the battle against this disease, previously known as monkeypox.
In July 2022, WHO had declared mpox as a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) — an “extraordinary event” with a “public health risk to other states through the international spread of disease” that potentially required a “coordinated international response.”
This move had led countries worldwide to declare their own public health emergencies, which carry legal weight and allow for an easier marshaling of resources and rule-waiving to ease a crisis.
After a pivotal meeting this week, WHO’s emergency committee for mpox recommended an end to the emergency, a decision that was supported by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“This is an important moment in our global fight against mpox,” Ghebreyesus stated. “The coordinated response of nations worldwide and the dedicated efforts of health workers have brought us to this turning point.”
From January 2022 to April 2023, WHO reported over 87,000 confirmed cases of mpox, including 140 deaths, from 111 countries or territories.
The United States alone reported more than 30,000 cases, with almost 90% of mpox-related deaths being among Black men, most of whom had weakened immune systems, according to the CDC.
Despite these troubling statistics, global mpox cases have been on a steady decline for months, particularly as public awareness increased and vaccination campaigns expanded.
Mpox, a less severe relative of the eradicated smallpox virus, originates in parts of West and Central Africa, typically contracted from rodents or small mammals.
The recent outbreak saw a majority of cases among gay, bisexual, and men who have sex with men, although anyone with close, personal contact with an infected individual was at risk.
The virus spreads through contact with body fluids, sores, or items such as clothing and bedding contaminated with the virus. It can also transmit from person to person through respiratory droplets, typically in close settings.
As the WHO revokes the global health emergency status of mpox, the world catches its breath, hopeful that this development signals a turning point in the fight against the disease.