The WHO calls for an "urgent" response from Europe against monkeypox

The WHO calls for an “urgent” response from Europe against monkeypox

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Copenhagen (AFP) – The World Health Organization (WHO) called this Friday to take “urgent” measures to contain the spread of monkeypox in Europe, where cases have tripled in the last two weeks.

In a statement, the regional director of the health organization called on European countries to “increase their efforts in the coming weeks and months to prevent monkeypox from spreading to a wider geographic area.”

“Urgent and coordinated action is imperative if we want to turn the tide in the race against the spread of the disease,” said the director of WHO Europe, Hans Kluge.

According to the latest data from the UN agency, Europe accounts for some 4,500 cases of monkeypox in this outbreak, three times as many as in mid-June.

That number corresponds to 90% of those registered worldwide since mid-May, when the disease, until then considered endemic only in about ten African countries, began to be reported in Europe.

Monkeypox, or seismic orthopoxvirus, was identified in humans in 1970 and is considered less dangerous than smallpox, of the same family, eradicated in 1980.

On Saturday, WHO experts considered that the explosion of cases posed a health threat whose evolution was very worrying, but without reaching a state of global health emergency at the moment.

But despite that decision, “the rapid evolution and urgent nature of this event means that the committee [de expertos] will review its position shortly,” WHO Europe said.

In Europe there are now 31 countries or territories that have reported cases of monkeypox.

Vaccine

The United Kingdom is the European country with the highest number of registered cases so far (1,076, according to the British authorities). They are followed by Germany (838), Spain (736), Portugal (365) and France (350), according to data from the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

London’s chief public health doctor, Kevin Fenton, on Thursday urged anyone with symptoms of monkeypox not to take part in this weekend’s planned Pride parade in the British capital.

Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) taken in 1997 during an investigation of a monkeypox outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Brian WJ Mahy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/AFP/Files

99% of cases of this disease, which is transmitted by close contact, have currently been registered in men between 20 and 40 years of age who mostly have sex with other men, according to the WHO.

The UN agency recommended that countries intensify their surveillance, especially the sequencing of the disease, and that they equip themselves with the means to diagnose it and react quickly.

WHO also encouraged countries to launch communication campaigns targeting primarily affected groups and the general public.

“There is simply no room for passivity,” insisted Hans Kluge.

On Friday, the Danish laboratory Bavarian Nordic, the only one that manufactures an approved vaccine specifically against monkeypox, announced a new delivery of 2.5 million doses to the United States.

This is added to a first order of half a million doses from the US authorities, from a few weeks ago. The vaccine is sold in the United States under the name Jynneos, while in Europe it is called Imvanex.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced on Tuesday that it had started studying a smallpox vaccine to extend its use against monkeypox.

The first symptoms may be fever, headache, muscle and back pain, chills or tiredness. Skin lesions develop between the first and third day after the onset of symptoms.

It is generally benign and usually heals spontaneously after two or three weeks.

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