Seven African countries have cumulatively reported nearly 1,400 monkeypox cases so far this year, with 1,392 suspected and 44 confirmed cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday as the number of infections worldwide continues to climb following the latest outbreak.
The cases have been reported in Cameroon, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone, the WHO regional office for Africa said in a statement.
The number of cases in 2022 is slightly fewer than half of the cases reported in 2021.
While the virus has not spread to new non-endemic countries in Africa, within countries with outbreaks, it has been expanding its geographic reach in recent years, according to the WHO.
Until 2019, monkeypox in Nigeria was reported mainly in the south of the country. But since 2020, the virus has spread to its central, eastern and northern regions.
Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, warned against having two different responses to monkeypox -- one for Western countries which are only now experiencing significant transmission and another for Africa.
“We must work together and have joined-up global actions which include Africa's experience, expertise and needs. This is the only way to ensure we reinforce surveillance and better understand the evolution of the disease while scaling up readiness and response to curb any further spread,” she said.
Monkeypox was first detected in humans in 1970 in the African region, and since then, most cases have been reported in rural and rainforest areas.
In 2017, there was a sudden spike, with more than 2,800 suspected cases reported in five countries.
This surge continued, peaking in 2020 with more than 6,300 suspected cases, with the DR Congo accounting for 95% of the total. The numbers then dropped in 2021 to around 3,200 suspected cases.
The recent monkeypox outbreak was reported on May 7, when the first European case was confirmed in an individual who returned to England from Nigeria.
Since then, around 260 confirmed monkeypox cases have been reported and about 120 suspected cases in 23 nations, where the virus is not endemic, according to the WHO’s latest update.
Moeti noted that Africa has successfully contained past monkeypox outbreaks, and from what they know about the virus and modes of transmission, the rise in cases can be stopped.
“It is critical that the continent has equal access to effective monkeypox vaccines and that globally we ensure vaccine doses reach every community in need. While parts of the continent might have built up some immunity against the disease, there are populations that are particularly vulnerable, such as health workers and contacts of cases,” she added.
The WHO is urging health workers to watch closely for possible symptoms, which include rash, fever, swollen lymph nodes, headache, back pain, muscle aches and fatigue.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.