Europe is at war - with monkeypox

Europe is at war - with monkeypox

4,500 cases in 31 countries across the continent

Monkeypox cases have tripled in the European Region over the past two weeks, says WHO Regional Director for Europe, Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge

COPENHAGEN, July 1 (The CONNECT) – Europe is in the grip of monkeypox.

Stating that there is no room for complacency, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for urgent and coordinated action to turn a corner in the race to reverse the ongoing spread of this disease.

Although last week the IHR Emergency Committee advised that the outbreak at this stage should be determined to not constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), the rapid evolution and emergency nature of the event means that the Committee will revisit its position shortly.

WHO Regional Director for Europe, Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge said the UN health body continues to assess the risk of monkeypox in the European Region as high, given the continued threat to public health and the rapid expansion of the disease, with continued challenges hampering our response, and with additional cases being reported among women and children.

A total of 31 countries  have reported monkeypox cases, with new cases tripling over the same period to over 4,500 laboratory confirmed cases across the Region.

Most cases reported so far have been among people between 21 and 40 years of age, and 99% have been male, with the majority of those for whom we have information being men who have sex with men. However, small numbers of cases have also now been reported among household members, heterosexual contacts, and non-sexual contacts as well as among children, Dr Kluge said.

Where information is available, close to 10% of patients were reported to have been hospitalized either for treatment or for isolation purposes, and one patient has been admitted to an ICU. Fortunately, no people are reported to have died so far. The vast majority of cases have presented with a rash and about three-quarters have reported systemic symptoms such as fever, fatigue, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, sore throat or headache, the WHO official said.

“So let me be clear,” Dr Kluge said and pointed out,  “there is simply no room for complacency – especially right here in the European Region with its fast-moving outbreak that with every hour, day and week is extending its reach into previously unaffected areas.” 

He asked the countries to quickly scale up surveillance for monkeypox, including sequencing, and obtain the capacity to diagnose and respond to the disease. Cases need to be found and investigated by a laboratory, and contacts identified promptly, so that the risk of onward spread can be reduced. WHO/Europe is working to support countries by delivering monkeypox virus tests and associated diagnostic training to 17 Member States. We have already delivered almost 3,000 tests to seven Member States and shipments to others are in process.

Addressing monkeypox requires firm political commitment complemented by sound public health investments, the official said.

Monkeypox has illustrated yet again how diseases endemic to or emerging in a few countries can swiftly expand into outbreaks that impact distant regions, and indeed the entire world. This outbreak once again tests the political resolve of individual Member States and the European Region as a whole. Let us not squander this opportunity but capitalize on the experience of COVID-19 to do what is right – quickly and decisively, for the benefit of our entire Region and beyond, Dr Kluge added.

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