The WHO on Thursday called on countries to be vigilant and transparent in the face of the rare outbreak of more than 3,200 cases of monkeypox worldwide, pending a decision on whether to activate its highest level of alert.
Faced with this situation, The World Health Organization on Thursday convened international experts to determine if the situation constitutes a “public health emergency of international concern“, as is the case with the Covid-19 pandemic.
The decision should not be known until at least Friday.
“WHO asks all member states to share information with us“WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during the meeting.
“In other epidemics, we have sometimes seen the consequences of the lack of transparency of the countries, the lack of information sharing.“, he added. In the face of Covid, China, where the first cases were reported at the end of 2019, was accused of having lacked transparency.
An unusual increase in monkeypox cases since May has been detected outside West and Central African countries where the virus normally circulates. The European region is at the center of the spread of the virus.
Dr Tedros explained that just over six weeks ago the WHO was notified of a cluster of three cases of monkeypox in the UK. These people had not recently traveled outside the country.
“Since then, more than 3,200 confirmed cases of monkeypox and one death have been reported to WHO from 48 countries, including Nigeria, and five WHO regions.“, he detailed.
“In addition, since the beginning of the year, about 1,500 suspected cases (…) and about 70 deaths have been reported in Central Africa, mainly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but also in the Central African Republic and Cameroon.“, he continued.
Known in humans since 1970, monkeypox or “orthopoxvirose simienneIt is a disease considered rare.
It first results in a high fever and quickly develops into a rash, with crusting. Most of the time it is benign, it usually heals spontaneously after two or three weeks.
“Have previous tests”
“We need all countries to remain vigilant and develop their capacity to prevent the transmission of the monkeypox virus. Many countries are likely to have missed opportunities to identify cases, including cases that have not traveled recently.“, launched Dr. Tedros.
The WHO considers it likely that the actual number of cases is higher, and considers that the virus must have already been circulating before the current outbreak – possibly since 2017 – without its transmission being detected.
“We did not expect to have such a large number of cases. And it’s kinda hard to see what’s the tip of the iceberg“Particularly because detection is not easy,” Philippe Duneton, executive director of Unitaid, an organization that helps poor countries prevent, diagnose and treat diseases, told AFP.
“There are no easy-to-use tests to detect. This is essentially done clinically. And therefore an important issue is to have tests that are obviously earlier and that allow detecting cases, particularly in contact cases.“, He explained.
Known in humans since 1970, monkeypox is considered much less dangerous and contagious than its cousin, smallpox, eradicated in 1980. It is considered a rare disease, due to a virus transmitted to humans by infected animals.
But in the current outbreak, person-to-person transmission is at the forefront.
Most of the cases reported so far involve men who have sex with men. If it is not a sexually transmitted infection, transmission can occur through close contact, such as having sex.
In Nigeria, Dr. Tedros noted: “the proportion of women affected is much higher than elsewhere, and a better understanding of how the disease spreads there is essential“.