Monkeypox infections have continued to spread across the world, as the World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed 14,000 cases across 70 countries, with five deaths reported in the African Region.
WHO director-general, Tedros Ghebreyesus, disclosed this on Wednesday during a virtual media briefing on Facebook, noting that most cases were reported from Europe primarily among men who have sex with men.
Mr Ghebreyesus noted that while infections are declining in some countries, “others are still seeing an increase and six countries reported their first cases last week.”
He added; “Some of these countries have much less access to diagnostics and vaccines, making the outbreak harder to track and harder to stop.
“WHO is validating, procuring and shipping tests to multiple countries and will continue to provide support for expanded access to effective diagnostics.”
He also emphasised that information is “one of the most powerful tools” against monkeypox because “the more information people at risk of Monkeypox have, the more they’re able to protect themselves.”
Emergency committee to reconvene
Speaking further, the WHO boss noted that the International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee will reconvene Thursday to review the latest data and to consider whether the outbreak now constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).
He assured that “regardless of the committee’s recommendation, WHO will continue to do everything we can to support countries to stop transmission and save lives.”
As of June 26, 2022, when the global cases of monkeypox reported were 3,040 infections from 47 countries, the committee’s report advised WHO that the monkeypox outbreak does not constitute a PHEIC, which is the highest level of alert WHO can issue.
In his comment on the report, Mr Ghebreyesus said: “The emergency committee shared serious concerns about the scale and speed of the current outbreak, noted many unknown gaps in current data and prepared a consensus report that reflects differing views amongst the committee.
“They advised me that at this moment the event does not constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), which is the highest level of alert WHO can issue but recognised that the convening of the committee itself reflects the increasing concern about the international spread of monkeypox.”
The Emergency Committee also established that the current multi-country outbreak is unusual due to its circulation in non-endemic countries, and the fact that the majority of cases were confirmed in gay men who were not previously immunised against smallpox.
Some members of the committee suggested that “given the low level of population immunity against pox virus infection, there is a risk of further, sustained transmission into the wider population that should not be overlooked.”
While the WHO DG did not mention names of countries with high cases of infections and the African countries with fatalities, the WHO last situation report on monkeypox, shows that the outbreak is present in five regions.
WHO added that this is the first time that local transmission of monkeypox has been reported in new countries without links to countries that have previously reported monkeypox.
As of the time of its publication, the log of cumulative confirmed monkeypox cases reported to WHO shows that between January 1, to July 4, 2022, the European Region topped the infection chart, followed by the Region of the Americas, African Region, Western Pacific Region and the Eastern Mediterranean Region.
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