The outbreak of the viral disease monkeypox in more than 100 countries is no longer an international health emergency. Because the number of cases reported has dropped significantly worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) lifted the state of emergency imposed in July 2022 this Thursday.
The disease is now called Mpox
The state of emergency is the highest level of alert that the UN agency can impose. It alerts governments to threats. Governments decide for themselves which protective measures to introduce. That is why the lifting has no direct consequences. Just last Friday, the WHO lifted the health emergency due to the corona pandemic after more than three years.
There is a vaccine against monkeypox, a much less dangerous relative of smallpox, which has been eradicated for about 40 years
Mpox – as the WHO has been calling the disease for several months – was practically only known from a few African countries until the beginning of 2022. In the spring, doctors suddenly discovered numerous cases in other countries. The spread of Mpox so shortly after the Corona pandemic led to great fears of a new global health threat. Since the summer, however, the numbers have fallen significantly.
In total, a good 87,000 cases of Mpox infections and 140 deaths from 111 countries were reported to the WHO from the beginning of 2022 to May 9, 2023. Because there are few test options in many places and not everyone affected reports, experts are convinced that the worldwide spread should have started earlier. In her opinion, the true number of infections is also likely to be higher.
The most noticeable symptom: blisters and pustules on the skin
The disease is caused by the monkeypox virus. The most noticeable symptom are blisters and pustules on the skin, including in the genital and anal regions. Mpox is transmitted through close physical contact. According to the WHO, men who have sex with men were predominantly affected. There is a vaccination against the disease.
In Germany, almost 3700 Mpox cases and no deaths have been reported to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) since May 2022 (as of May 10th). After a sharp increase, the number of cases fell significantly from August. The vast majority of those infected were men, with less than one percent women, adolescents and children.
According to the RKI, no case has been registered since the end of January 2023. However, the RKI warns that the numbers could increase, for example if more events with many participants take place again in spring.
pg/sti (dpa, afp, rtr)