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Mpox Is No Longer a Global Health Emergency, WHO Says

Mpox, a sometimes deadly virus that causes unsightly, painful rashes, is no longer a global health emergency, but more needs to be done to eradicate the disease, the World Health Organization said.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus lowered the global alert level on mpox, previously known as monkeypox, almost a year after first declaring the spread of the virus an extraordinary event.

A PHEIC—pronounced “fake”—applies to an extraordinary event that carries a public-health risk via the international spread of a disease, and one that potentially requires a coordinated response. It can be used to encourage nations to cooperate on countermeasures.

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Tedros declared mpox a PHEIC in July even though an expert panel had been divided on the matter. The leader of the WHO has been criticized for raising the alarm on Covid too slowly. He declared the end of the PHEIC on Covid last week.

A cousin of the smallpox virus, mpox has mostly been confined to developing countries for years, but spread across Europe and the U.S. last year. There have been more than 87,000 cases and 140 deaths from 111 countries reported to WHO. The smallpox vaccine Imvanex has shown effectiveness against monkeypox.

In the U.S., health officials are currently investigating a cluster of new cases in Chicago, more than half of which are in people who were previously vaccinated against the virus. Still, there were almost 90% fewer cases reported globally in the last three months, compared with the previous three months, Tedros said Thursday.

The pathogen typically causes flu-like symptoms, followed by a rash that often starts on the face and spreads down the belly. The illness often lasts for two weeks to a month, and can be deadly.

Read More: What It Really Feels Like to Have Mpox

A large proportion of cases have been among men who’ve had sex with men, and many have occurred within sexual networks, though anyone can contract the disease. For those who also have untreated HIV infection, there is particular risk. The smallpox vaccine Imvanex has shown effectiveness against monkeypox.

“While stigma has been a driving concern in managing this epidemic and continues to hamper access to care for mpox, the feared backlash against the most affected communities has largely not materialized,” Tedros said. “For that, we are thankful.”

—With assistance from Janice Kew and Madison Muller.