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WHO Africa experts hope focus on monkeypox will boost fight against disease

Test tube labelled ‘Monkeypox virus positive’ are seen in this illustration taken May 22, 2022. Image: Dado Ruvic.Illustration

Test tube labelled ‘Monkeypox virus positive’ are seen in this illustration taken May 22, 2022. Image: Dado Ruvic.Illustration

Published Jul 3, 2022

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) Africa hopes to see global spotlight on monkeypox act as a catalyst to beat this disease once and for all in Africa.

WHO Africa healthcare experts provided an update on monkeypox in Africa yesterday, where it was announced that the cumulative number of suspected monkeypox cases in Africa since the start of 2022 is 1 821, with 109 confirmed cases in nine countries.

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WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti said that while the continent is seeing cases in Ghana, South Africa and Morocco for the first time, the biggest burden is in the Democratic Republic of Conga (DRC) and Nigeria, which accounts for 92% of all suspected cases.

Five of the 13 countries that reported cases of monkeypox, either confirmed or suspected, have also recorded total of 73 apparently associated deaths. Moeti added that DRC recorded almost 65 of the death but with only 10 laboratory-confirmed cases in the country, the majority of the deaths cannot be confirmed as being due to monkeypox at this time.

“The absence of confirmation of monkeypox as a cause of death combined with a high percentage of suspected cases in some after countries underline the urgent need for increase diagnostic capacity across Africa. Additionally, the spread of cases beyond the six African countries where monkeypox was previously been recorded is clearly of concern,” Moeti said.

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The regional director added that the two confirmed South African cases, which are not linked to any history of trouble, was concerning for the WHO Africa as South Africa is geographically quite distant from countries with a history of monkeypox transmission.

Last week, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus concurred with the advice of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on monkeypox, which deemed that monkeypox does not constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) at this time.

“However, we are aware that tracking the spread of the virus remains critical and WHO is deploying expert assistance to strengthen surveillance and improve the overall response. We are keeping a very close eye on this situation at a global level in order to determine what would be the right time to declare a PHEIC,” Moeti said.

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The WHO has recommended targeted vaccination for those who have been exposed or those who are at high risk, such healthcare workers, laboratory staff, outbreak team responders and close contacts of cases and suspected cases, rather than maximum vaccination.

“We would like to see this global spotlight on monkeypox act as a catalyst to beat this disease once and for all in Africa,” Moeti said.

Former President Nigerian Academy of Science and Professor of Virology, Redeemers University, Professor Oyewale Tomori said global experts need to focus on the host of the monkeypox virus as the host is unknown at this moment.

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“In our region, we need to focus on finding out the source. Without finding out the source of the infection we will be beating about the bush. We need a well thought out medical study and we have the resources for that,” Tomori said.

in terms of the prevelance in European cases with men who have sex with men, Tieble Traore said that in Africa has not yet seen the same pattern and that the cases are almost equal among men and women.

“Monkeypox can affect anyone, regardless of their sex, gender or religion belief,” Traore said.

@Chulu_M

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