Health & Fitness

WHO says mpox outbreak, the largest in history, no longer global health emergency

Pharmacist Uchita Parikh prepares a dose of the Jynneos monkeypox vaccine at a pop-up vaccination clinic opened today by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health at the West Hollywood Library on August 3, 2022 in West Hollywood, California.

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The World Health Organization on Thursday declared an end to the global health emergency for the outbreak of the mpox virus.

“We now see steady progress in controlling the outbreak based on the lessons of HIV and working closely with the most affected communities,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press conference in Geneva.

“I’m pleased to declare that the mpox is no longer a global health emergency,” Tedros said.

New cases of mpox have declined 90% over the past three months, he said.

Previously called monkeypox, the WHO changed the name to mpox last year to reduce stigma.

Mpox, a virus related to smallpox, was previously limited mostly to Africa.

The virus started rapidly around the world last year, resulting in more than 87,000 cases and 140 deaths across 111 countries, according to WHO data. It is the largest known outbreak of the virus in history.

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Bavarian Nordic, which manufactures the mpox vaccine, recently warned that the global outbreak was a wake-up call about the need to ramp up vaccine manufacturing capacity to prepare for a potential smallpox threat.

“If it wasn’t mpox but it was smallpox, we are completely at the wrong scale,” Bavrian Nordic CEO Paul Chaplin told CNBC in an interview last month.

The company’s Jynneos vaccine protects against mpox and smallpox.

Mpox spreads primarily through sexual contact, with gay and bisexual men at higher risk of infection.

Although the virus is rarely lethal, people who are infected develop lesions in sensitive areas that are very painful and can require hospitalization.

Mpox can be lethal for people with severely weakened immune systems, such as those living with HIV.

Public health authorities dealing with the outbreak faced a difficult balance of clearly communicating vital information about how the virus was spreading while at the same time not creating a backlash against vulnerable communities.

“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 Thursday. “For that we are thankful.”

The largest outbreak of mpox occurred in the U.S., with more than 30,000 cases and 42 deaths. The Biden administration in January ended the public health emergency declared in response to mpox after cases dramatically declined in the wake of a national vaccination and public health information campaign.

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