The World Health Organization (WHO) has removed the distinction between endemic and non-endemic countries from its statistics on monkeypox to better “unify” the response to the virus.
The virus, which normally circulates in central and west Africa, is now present on several continents.
“We are eliminating the distinction between endemic and non-endemic countries and presenting countries together whenever possible to reflect the required unified response,” WHO said in its June 17 newsletter sent to media on Saturday.
From January 1 to June 15, “a total of 2,103 confirmed cases, one probable case and one death [au Nigeria] have been reported to WHO in 42 countries.
On June 23, it will assess whether the current outbreak constitutes a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern,” the highest alert level.
The European region is at the center of the spread of the virus, with 1,773 confirmed cases, or 84% of the global total. It is followed by the American continent (245 cases, 12%), followed by Africa (64 cases, 3%) and the regions of the eastern Mediterranean (14 cases) and the western Pacific (7 cases).
The WHO considers it likely that the actual number of cases is higher.
She believes that the virus must have been circulating before the current outbreak, without its transmission being detected. That “could go as far back as 2017,” she says.
In fact, since 2017, a few isolated imported cases, particularly from Nigeria, have been identified in several countries.
With the current spate of infections, the majority of cases reported so far involve men who have sex with men. However, the vast majority had not traveled to African countries where the virus was endemic.
Known in humans since the 1970s, monkeypox, or “simian orthopoxvirus,” is considered much less dangerous and contagious than its cousin, smallpox, which was eradicated in the 1980s. It is a rare disease caused by a virus transmitted to humans from infected animals.
In the current situation, human-to-human transmission is in the foreground.
There are two main groups (clades) of monkeypox virus, those of West Africa (mortality around 1%) and those of the Congo Basin (mortality up to 10%).
In all cases reported in countries newly affected by the virus, the West African group has been identified.