May 15, 2023: The WHO has come up with its declarations regarding the Mpox outbreak. What is Mpox? Continue reading to learn more!
Mpox, formerly known as monkeypox, is a cousin of the now-extinct smallpox virus that is less harmful. It is mainly contracted via a rodent or small mammal and is indigenous to portions of West and Central Africa.
The virus can be spread through bodily fluids, wounds, and contact with virus-contaminated items such as clothing and bedding. It can also be transmitted from person to person by respiratory droplets, usually in an enclosed space.
Monkeypox is related to the smallpox virus through a similar thread and was mostly endemic to parts of western and central Africa. It is contracted from a mammal or small rodent, and can spread through contact with body fluids, burns, sores, or contaminated items such as outfits and bedding. It can also spread through respiratory droplets in a closed setting of people, from one person to another. It develops as a rash after one has had contact with an infected individual.
Want to know more about Mpox? Click on the links below:
On May 11th, the World Health Organisation had declared that mpox is no longer a global health emergency; however, it designated mpox as a public health emergency of international concern in July 2022. It was described as "an extraordinary event" that poses a "public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease" and "to potentially require a coordinated international response."
A PHEIC (public health emergency of international concern) creates agreements between countries to follow WHO recommendations for dealing with emergencies. Each country in turn declares its own public health emergency. This is a declaration with legal implications. Countries mobilise resources to mitigate crises and use them to abolish rules.
After a heated meeting this week, the WHO Emergency Committee on Mpox recommended an end to the emergency, and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus agreed with his assessment.
On the previous day, Mpox Emergency Committee met and advised Tedros that the multinational Mpox outbreak no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern and he was pleased to declare the same yet, as with COVID-19, it doesn’t imply that the job is done. Action is still required.
The Director-General called on countries to maintain testing capacity and the ability to respond rapidly to future epidemics.
From January 2022 to April 2023, more than 87,000 confirmed Mpox cases (including 140 deaths) from 111 countries or territories were reported to WHO. More than 30,000 cases have been reported in the United States. Globally, the number of infected people has been declining in recent months, especially due to increased awareness and widespread availability of vaccines.
Tedros mentioned 90 fewer cases were reported in the past three months than in the past 90 days. The co-chair of the International Health Regulations emergency committee, Dr. Nicola Low said that even though the number of infected people had fallen, yet infection was still going on.
She further added that, there is a natural uncertainty about the possibility of a resurgence of infection. There are also gaps in their perceived knowledge of transmission routes in some countries, vaccine effectiveness, and the continued lack of effective control, especially in African countries where infection and smallpox outbreaks are frequent.
As a result, Low said that the committee's move to recommend lifting the health emergency was, after much consideration and discussion but the committee believes that the task is not for immediate action but for the long term and concluded that it is best addressed by a systematic approach.
Tedros added that stigma is a major concern in dealing with this epidemic and continues to impede access to healthcare for Mpox patients, but the feared backlash against the most affected communities has largely failed to materialise and they are grateful for this.
Tedros said, both the Mpox and coronavirus global health emergencies are now over, but the possibility of a resurgence of infections remains.
"Both viruses continue to circulate and both continue to kill people," he said.