WHO declares Mpox no longer a health emergency, plus other health stories you need to know about

Top health news: WHO declares Mpox outbreak no longer a public health emergency of international concern; Brazil declares animal health emergency; and more
Top health news: WHO declares Mpox outbreak no longer a public health emergency of international concern; Brazil declares animal health emergency; and more
Image: REUTERS/Rebecca Noble
  • This global round-up brings you health stories from the past fortnight.
  • Top health news: WHO declares Mpox outbreak no longer a public health emergency of international concern; 152 million babies were born preterm in the past decade; Brazil declares animal health emergency.

1. WHO declares Mpox outbreak is no longer a public health emergency of international concern

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that the outbreak of the Mpox virus which began around a year ago is no longer a public health emergency of international concern.

The outbreak had led to 87,000 cases and 140 deaths being reported to the WHO, spread across 111 countries.

Announcing the downgraded status on 11 May, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, "as with COVID-19, that does not mean that the work is over. Mpox continues to pose significant public health challenges that need a robust, proactive and sustainable response".

Previously known as monkeypox, the virus spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids, causing flu-like symptoms as well as pus-filled lesions on the skin. It has been in circulation since the 1970s, and most people recover without treatment within a few weeks.

Infection levels have dropped significantly in recent months, with 90% fewer cases reported in the past three months, compared to the previous three.

The WHO praised the rapid action of countries and the response of community groups, which have been crucial to spreading information and awareness, supporting behaviour change and boosting access to tests and treatment where necessary.

Graphic showing how neonatal disorders have been the leading cause of disease burden worldwide since 1990.
Neonatal disorders have been the leading cause of disease burden worldwide since 1990.
Image: WHO

2. 152 million babies were born preterm in the past decade

Of every 10 babies born, one of those is preterm. And every 40 seconds one of those preterm babies dies.

A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and PMNCH, the world’s largest alliance for women, children and adolescents, has shown the health impact of preterm births and is calling for urgent action.

Preterm birth is now the leading cause of child deaths, accounting for over a fifth of deaths in children under five.

An estimated 13.4 million babies were born before 37 weeks of pregnancy in 2020, with nearly 1 million dying from preterm complications. This is equivalent to around 1 in 10 early-born babies dying worldwide.

The report finds that there has been no progress on preterm birth rates anywhere in the world over the past decade. In that time, 152 million preterm babies were born. Alongside this, the impacts of conflict, climate change and COVID-19 are increasing risks for women and babies worldwide.

Preterm babies who survive can also face lifelong health complications, with an increased likelihood of disability and developmental delays.

Health and Healthcare

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The World Economic Forum’s Centre for Health and Healthcare works with governments and businesses to identify and amplify solutions for building resilient, efficient, and equitable healthcare systems. Here are some examples of the impact delivered by the centre:

Global vaccine delivery: The Forum actively supports global vaccine delivery efforts, and its contributions to COVAX have resulted in the delivery of over 1 billion COVID-19 vaccines. The Forum also played a pivotal role in launching Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which has helped save more than 13 million lives over the past 20 years.

Davos Alzheimer's Collaborative: Through this collaborative initiative, the Forum is actively working to accelerate progress in the discovery, testing, and delivery of interventions for Alzheimer's disease.

Mental health policy toolkit: In collaboration with Deloitte, the Forum has developed a comprehensive toolkit to assist lawmakers in crafting effective policies related to technology for mental health.

COVID Action Platform: In the midst of the pandemic, the Forum, in partnership with various organizations, launched more than 40 initiatives worldwide to navigate the challenges posed by COVID-19.

Global Coalition for Value in Healthcare: The Forum's coalition is fostering a sustainable and equitable healthcare industry. It has launched innovative value-based healthcare hubs to address ineffective spending on global health.

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To get involved or to learn about other initiatives undertaken by the World Economic Forum, please contact us.

3. News in brief: More health stories from around the world

Brazil has declared a 180-day animal health emergency off the back of detecting highly contagious bird flu in wild birds for the first time. Brazil is the world's biggest chicken meat exporter with $9.7 billion in sales last year, Reuters reports, and has so far confirmed eight cases of the avian influenza in wild birds. The country is also investigating a suspected case of human infection by the virus.

The head of the World Organisation for Animal Health said governments should consider vaccinating poultry against bird flu in order to prevent a pandemic.

The WHO is currently negotiating a new set of rules on how to deal with pandemics, in a so-called 'pandemic treaty'. WHO chief Ghebreyesus said the pact was a "generational commitment that we will not go back to the old cycle of panic and neglect".

The US Food and Drug Administration is set to give more gay and bisexual men the opportunity to donate blood after finalizing new risk-based recommendations for evaluating blood donor eligibility. Previously, men who had had sex with other men were recommended to wait three months after sexual contact before donating blood. Now, all prospective donors will be asked the same screening questions, whatever their gender or sexual orientation.

The cholera vaccine shortage is expected to last until 2025, amid surging cases, Reuters reports. The Gavi alliance said that there were currently enough doses to meet emergency demand, but not enough for preventative use. The WHO has warned that "the short-term outlook for controlling the disease is bleak".

A WHO advisory group has recommended that this year's COVID-19 booster shots should target one of the XBB variants which are currently dominant. The original COVID-19 strain should no longer be included in vaccines, it said, as this virus is no longer in circulation and produces very little response against current variants.

The US Surgeon General has released a new advisory about the impact of social media use on youth mental health. It cautions that while there are some benefits, there are indicators that it poses a risk of harm to children and young adolescents' health and wellbeing.

4. More on health from Agenda

A new WHO report has shown that one in three children in Europe is overweight. This poses a significant health challenge and highlights the need for intervention and preventative measures.

Researchers have discovered a way to eliminate ‘forever chemicals’, or PFAS, which usually take hundreds or thousands of years to break down. Researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) have developed a new water treatment that filters and removes PFAs from drinking water, safely, efficiently and permanently.

A machine that can 3D-print human tissue in space is one of a number of experiments being done in zero gravity that could shape the future of health. Scientists are also studying bacteria and diseases in space.

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