W.H.O. Ends Mpox Global Emergency

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The World Health Organization announced on Thursday that mpox — previously known as monkeypox — no longer constituted a public health emergency, almost exactly a year after the virus emerged as a threat.

In lifting the emergency designation, the W.H.O. cited a recent sustained decline in reported cases. The number of cases over the past three months fell by 90 percent, compared with the previous three months.

The outbreak primarily affected men who have sex with men, which came as a surprise to experts who had studied the disease in African countries, where pregnant women and young children were most at risk.

A mobile mpox vaccination facility in Manhattan last fall.Credit…Kholood Eid for The New York Times

Why It Matters: The sharp decline is a victory.

The W.H.O.’s declaration is an acknowledgment that the world successfully managed an international outbreak even while still reeling from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The initial response to the outbreak sputtered, much as it did when Covid began to spread. But most countries were able to quell their epidemics with a combination of vaccination and behavioral changes among affected communities.

Mpox was the W.H.O.’s second global emergency in two years, and the seventh since 2007. The organization lifted the designation for Covid last week, a momentous if largely symbolic milestone.

Background: Mpox caught the world by surprise.

In July 2022, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.’s director general, overruled a panel of advisers who could not come to a consensus, and declared mpox a global emergency. By then, the outbreak had swelled to more than 16,000 cases and five deaths in 75 countries.

The global toll now stands at more than 87,000 cases and 140 deaths in 111 countries.

Worldwide, about 84 percent of those infected were men who have sex with men; about half also had H.I.V. Mpox was particularly dangerous for people with H.I.V., who frequently became severely ill. About 15 percent of those with advanced H.I.V. who became seriously ill with mpox died.

What’s Next: The virus is not gone.

Health experts worry the virus may yet resurge this summer, particularly after Pride events scheduled worldwide over the next few weeks. Last year’s outbreak followed large gatherings in Spain and Belgium.

Some countries, particularly in the Western Pacific region, have seen an uptick in cases since April 25, and Mexico reported 12 new deaths. In the United States, Chicago officials are investigating eight new cases, its highest number since November.

“It remains important for countries to maintain their capacities and continue their efforts, assess their risk, quantify their needs to respond and act promptly when needed,” Dr. Tedros said at a meeting of the W.H.O.’s emergency committee on Wednesday.

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