This is good news for the global health situation. Almost a year after the beginning of its outbreak outside endemic areas, the epidemic of mpox - long called monkeypox - appears sufficiently reflux and controlled to lift the maximum level of alert, decided the WHO Thursday, while calling for vigilance. "I am pleased to declare that mpox no longer represents a public health emergency of international concern," World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference.

For the experts of the emergency committee, whose recommendations he followed, the decline of the epidemic and the progress in its control are important enough to move to another stage. This announcement on mpox comes exactly one week after the lifting of the WHO's highest alert level for Covid. "If the emergencies for mpox and Covid-19 are over, the threat of new waves remains for both. Both viruses continue to circulate and both continue to kill," warned Dr Tedros, in the wake of the experts.

About 87,400 cases listed

Outbreaks of mpox had been found, from May 2022, in Europe and the United States, outside the dozen countries in Central and West Africa where the disease has long been endemic. The Public Health Emergency of International Concern was declared on 23 July 2022 by the WHO Director-General. Since then, the curve of contaminations has experienced a sharp ebb. There have been "nearly 90% fewer cases in the last three months compared to the previous three months," noted Dr. Tedros.

About 87,400 cases have been recorded in 111 countries and the disease has killed 140 people, according to the latest count on May 8, cited by the director-general. The ten most affected countries were the United States, Brazil, Spain, France, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada, according to the WHO.

Progress inspired by the lessons of HIV

The disease is characterized by rashes, which can appear on the genitals or in the mouth, and may be accompanied by fever, sore throat or pain in the lymph nodes.

In addition to "the rapid response of countries" to combat the epidemic, Dr Tedros spoke of "steady progress in controlling the epidemic, inspired by the lessons of HIV, working closely with the most affected communities". In most cases, the patients were men who have sex with men, with a median age of 34 years. "While stigma has been a major 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," said Dr Tedros.

Vigilance remains the order of the day

For mpox, as for Covid, the acute phase of the epidemic has passed, but vigilance remains required. Not only does "the virus continue to affect communities in all regions of the world, including Africa, where transmission is still poorly understood," but travel-related cases remain a threat. And mpox poses a particular risk to people with untreated AIDS.

"Mpox continues to pose significant public health challenges, which require a robust, proactive and sustainable response," said Dr Tedros, calling on countries to maintain surveillance and access to tests, treatments and vaccines.

Polio still considered an international public health emergency

The fight against monkeypox only took on a global scale when the disease began to spread to rich countries last year. This episode reminds us that viruses have no borders and require a global response, insist advocates of an approach combining human, animal and environmental health.

In endemic areas of Africa, the epidemic, more lethal, stems mainly from contact with wildlife. After the lifting of the maximum alert for Covid and then mpox, only one disease remains considered an international public health emergency by the WHO: poliomyelitis.

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  • Poliomyelitis (Polio)
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