More than 3,200 cases of monkey pox have been confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 48 countries, including Nigeria, and throughout five of its worldwide regions.
“In Nigeria, the proportion of women affected is much higher than elsewhere.
“It is critical to better understand how the disease is spreading there,’’ WHO’s Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, has said.
At the first meeting of the WHO’s Emergency Committee on the outbreak of monkeypox on Thursday, he made the statements.
According to Ghebreyesus, the pandemic is still largely affecting gay males and men who have recently had sex with new partners or many partners.
“Person-to-person transmission is on-going and is likely underestimated,’’ he stressed.
He said so far in 2022, almost 1,500 suspected cases of monkeypox and around 70 deaths had been reported in Central Africa.
He added that the cases in Africa were primarily in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), but also in the Central African Republic and Cameroon.
“Few of these cases are confirmed, and little is known about their circumstances. While the epidemiology and viral clade in these cases may be different, it is a situation that cannot be ignored,’’ he said.
Ghebreyesus said in some outbreaks, “we have sometimes seen the consequences of countries not being transparent, of not sharing information.’’
The WHO chief called for case finding, contact tracing, laboratory investigation, genome sequencing, and implementation of infection prevention and control measures.
WHO also needs clear case definitions to help to identify and report infections, he said.
“All countries have to remain vigilant and strengthen their capacities to prevent onward transmission of monkeypox.
“It is likely that many countries will have missed opportunities to identify cases, including cases in the community without any recent travel,’’ he said.
WHO’s goal is to support countries to contain transmission and stop the outbreak with established public health tools including surveillance, contact-tracing and isolation of infected patients.
“We have learned a great deal from recent outbreaks including COVID-19 and the global HIV epidemic,’’ Ghebreyesus told assembled scientists.
He said one of the most important things was to work closely with affected communities to co-create effective risk communications, noting that was what WHO was doing.
Ghebreyesus said it was vital to address stigma, discrimination and misinformation, in the monkeypox and other outbreaks, swiftly and decisively.
“We also need to work together as an international community to generate the necessary clinical efficacy and safety data on vaccines and therapeutics against monkeypox and ensure their equitable distribution,” he said.
The first mysterious cluster of monkeypox appeared in the United Kingdom more than six weeks ago when the WHO was told of a family cluster of three cases without any recent travel history.
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