AFP, published on Thursday, June 23, 2022 at 8:14 p.m.
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 trigger its highest level of outbreak. alert.
Faced with this situation, the World Health Organization brought together international experts on Thursday to determine whether the situation constitutes a “public health emergency of international concern”, as is the case for 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 countries, of the lack of information sharing,” he added. Faced with Covid, China, where the first cases were reported at the end of 2019, has been accused of having lacked transparency.
An unusual upsurge in monkeypox cases has been detected since May outside the countries of West and Central Africa 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 said.
“In addition, since the beginning of the year, nearly 1,500 suspected cases (…) and around 70 deaths have been reported in Central Africa, mainly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but also in the Central African Republic and Cameroon”, he continued.
Known in humans since 1970, monkeypox or “simian orthopoxvirus” is a disease considered rare.
It first results in a high fever and quickly evolves into a rash, with the formation of scabs. Most often benign, it generally heals spontaneously after two to three weeks.
– “Have earlier tests” –
“We need all countries to remain vigilant and build capacity to prevent transmission of the monkeypox virus. It is likely that many countries will have missed opportunities to identify cases, including cases that do not haven’t traveled recently,” Dr. Tedros said.
The WHO considers it likely that the true 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 is a little difficult to see what is the tip of the iceberg”, in particular because screening is not easy, indicated to the AFP Philippe Duneton, executive director of Unitaid, an organization that helps poor countries prevent, diagnose and treat disease.
“There are no easy-to-use tests to detect. This is essentially done on a clinical level. And therefore an important issue is to have tests which are obviously earlier and which make it possible to detect cases, particularly in the case contacts”, he explained.
Known in humans since 1970, monkeypox is considered much less dangerous and contagious than its cousin, smallpox, eradicated in 1980. It is a disease considered rare, due to a virus transmitted to humans by infected animals.
But in the current outbreak, human-to-human transmission is at the forefront.
The majority of reported cases 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 pointed out, “the proportion of women affected is much higher than elsewhere, and it is essential to better understand how the disease spreads there”.