More than 1,000 confirmed cases of monkeypox have now been reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) from 29 countries that are not endemic to the virus.
The Director-General of the WHO, Tedros Ghebreyesus, stated this during a live media briefing shown across the global health body’s social media handles.
Mr Ghebreyesus further disclosed that the latest infections reported by the countries have been discovered not only among men who have sex with men. He said some countries are now beginning to report cases of community transmission, including some cases in women.
The WHO DG also noted that the monkeypox virus has been circulating and killing in Africa for decades with 1,400 suspected cases and 66 deaths reported so far.
“It’s an unfortunate reflection of the world we live in that the international community is only now paying attention to monkeypox because it has appeared in high-income countries.
“The communities that live with the threat of this virus every day deserve the same concern, the same care and the same access to tools to protect themselves,” he said, calling for more medical attention in African countries endemic to the virus.
According to the breakdown of cases available on the WHO website, for non-endemic countries as of May 29, 2022, the United Kingdom topped the infection log with over 100 cases, followed by Portugal and Canada.
Meanwhile, a separate log for Africa indicates that the Democratic Republic of the Congo topped the chart with 1,284 infections and 58 deaths between January 1 and May 8, 2022, followed by Nigeria and Cameroon.
Preventive measures, vaccination
Speaking on the measures to curb the spread of the virus, the DG said WHO will issue guidance on clinical care, infection prevention and control, vaccination and further guidance on community protection.
“Last week, WHO hosted a consultation with more than 500 researchers to review what we know and don’t know and to identify research priorities.
“We’re also working with UN AIDS, civil society organisations and communities of men who have sex with men to listen to their questions and provide information on what’s more on what monkeypox is and how to avoid it,” he said.
He also highlighted the various ways people can protect themselves from contracting the virus.
“There are effective ways for people to protect themselves and others. People with symptoms should isolate at home and consult a health worker.
“Those who share the household with an infected person should avoid close contact,” he said.
On vaccination, he added that the approved antivirus and vaccines for monkeypox are in limited supply, noting that WHO is developing a coordination mechanism for the distribution of supplies based on public health needs and fairness.
He also warned that the WHO does not recommend mass vaccination against monkeypox, as the available vaccines are being used to protect those who may be exposed as health workers and laboratory personnel.
In an explainer on the WHO website, the vaccination against smallpox has been demonstrated through several observational studies to be about 85 per cent effective in preventing monkeypox.
On how monkeypox relates to smallpox, WHO explained that the clinical presentation of monkeypox resembles that of smallpox.
Smallpox was more easily transmitted and more often fatal as about 30 per cent of patients died, while the last case of naturally acquired smallpox occurred in 1977.
Origin, clades of monkeypox
According to the WHO Technical Lead for monkeypox, Rosamund Lewis, the virus has been present in Africa for 50 years.
She explained that it was first described in 1970 in a nine-month-old child.
“Prior to that it was first discovered in a colony of research monkeys in Copenhagen in Denmark, which is the origin of the name, so it is a virus that is present in forested regions.
“There are events where the virus moves from animals to people, there are activities encroaching on the forest, there’s deforestation, there’s perhaps the pressure of population and demographics,” she said.
On the clades of monkeypox, Mrs Lewis reiterated at the briefing that there are two different strains or clades of the virus that are prevalent in different areas.
The clades are the Central African region called the Congo Basin clade and the second is the West African region called the West African clade.
The WHO expert noted that the clade that is spreading, which is the West African clade of the virus, has long been known to perhaps cause less severe disease.
She said: “So the one that we’re seeing that is spreading in non-endemic countries is a strain which has long been known to perhaps cause less severe disease.
“And when there is a less severe disease, then people don’t need to stay home.ⓘ
“So it’s possible that transmission is being increased through increased human contact, physical contact, independent of the nature of the virus itself.” ( Premium Times)