WHO Concern as Monkeypox Cases Jump by 77% in a Week

With a 77% increase in new monkeypox cases in the past week, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Emergency Committee is increasingly likely to declare the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) when it reconvenes on or before 18 July.

By Thursday, 59 countries had reported monkeypox cases, with Spain (1804 cases), UK (1351), Germany (1304) and the US (605) recording the highest caseloads.

However, 10 countries have not reported new cases for over 21 days, which is the maximum duration of the incubation period of the disease, according to the WHO’s latest report.

So far, there have been 6027 laboratory-confirmed cases of monkeypox and three deaths, but most countries are unable to test for the virus.

However, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) reported on Wednesday that 5949 cases had been identified in 33 European countries alone through international health regulation mechanisms and public records.

The vast majority of cases (99%) were male and aged between 31 and 40 (42%). 

“The majority of cases presented with a rash (96.1%) and systemic symptoms such as fever, fatigue, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, chills, sore throat or headache (69%). No cases were reported to have died. Some (15) cases were reported to be health workers. However, further investigation is ongoing to determine whether infection was due to occupational exposure,” according to the ECDC.

Monkeypox cases, 6 July 2022 (Source: https://www.monkeypoxtally.info/)

Lack of testing 

Expressing his concern about the scale and spread, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged that “testing remains a challenge and it’s highly probable that there are a significant number of cases not being picked up”.

While most of the new cases have been identified in Europe and the US, Africa – where monkeypox was first identified in 1970 – has not recorded a huge jump in cases, and experts believe this could be due to a lack of proper testing. 

“I plan to reconvene the emergency committee so they are updated on the current epidemiology and evolution of the outbreak and implementation of countermeasures. I will bring them together during the week of 18 July or sooner if needed,” Tedros told the media briefing on Wednesday.

The emergency committee decided not to declare monkeypox a PHEIC when it met in late June.

Tedros also said that the WHO is working with countries and vaccine manufacturers to coordinate the sharing of “scarce” vaccines .

Tedros added that the WHO is also working closely with civil society and LGBTQI+ community in particular to “break the stigma around the virus and spread information so people can protect themselves”, and commended those sharing their stories on social media to inform others.

Child cases

According to the WHO’s latest report, the outbreak “continues to primarily affect men who have sex with men who have reported recent sex with one or multiple male partners, suggesting no signal of sustained transmission beyond these networks for now.”

However, WHO monkeypox expert Dr Rosamund Lewis confirmed that there were cases reported in children, about one-third of whom were under the age of 10.

“For older children aged 18 or 19, the mode of transmission may still be an open question, but for younger children, one would assume that that would be from exposure in the household setting,” said Lewis.

By Wednesday, 119 people had been diagnosed with monkeypox in New York City and city officials confirmed that the limited supplies of vaccines were usually snapped up in minutes by the group it was being offered to: men who have sex with men who had multiple sex partners, as well as close contacts of confirmed cases.



Image Credits: https://www.monkeypoxtally.info/.

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