Africa must be part of a united global fight against monkeypox as developed countries respond to unusual outbreaks of the disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Monkeypox is endemic in some African countries
- Cases in developed countries have sparked a wave of scientific research into the disease
- WHO calls on low-income countries to also benefit from the fruits of this labor
“We need to have a connected global response to monkeypox to prevent it from becoming endemic in more countries,” D. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO director for Africa, said in an online briefing.
As countries in the developed world find ways to limit the spread of monkeypox, “it’s very important that … we make sure we share these tools, we build capacity around the world to respond to these outbreaks,” he said. she declared.
“What is extremely important now is to avoid any risk of a repeat of the inequitable access to COVID-19 vaccines that African countries were experiencing at the start of the pandemic,” Dr Moeti said.
Monkeypox is a virus that can cause symptoms such as fever, body aches, and a characteristic bumpy rash.
It is usually found in West and Central African countries with tropical rainforests, but recently more than 550 confirmed cases of monkeypox have been reported from at least 30 countries outside of Africa, according to the WHO.
Many cases have reportedly been linked to sexual activity at two recent raves in Europe.
While cases have been detected in Australia, Britain, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, the United States and Israel, no deaths have been reported.
Cases of monkeypox were confirmed in Sydney and Melbourne last month.
Meanwhile, seven of Africa’s 54 countries have reported the disease and there have been around three times as many cases of monkeypox as usual.
African nations lack testing capacity
There have been more than 1,400 suspected cases of monkeypox and 63 deaths in African countries where the disease is endemic – Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo and Nigeria – according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But Fiona Braka, who heads emergency operations at the WHO Africa office in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, said only 44 of those suspected cases had been confirmed.
Part of the reason for the wide gap between suspected and confirmed cases was limited testing capacity in African countries, Dr Braka said.
She said only 10 countries in Africa were able to test for the disease.
She said more information on animal-to-human transmission, as well as human-to-human transmission, was needed.
Monkeypox belongs to the same family of viruses as smallpox. According to the WHO, smallpox vaccines are about 85% effective against monkeypox.
Countries in the developed world have started using smallpox vaccines and are considering the use of antivirals to control their outbreaks of the disease. Doctors in Africa say these resources should also be available to help them.
One of the worst affected countries in Africa is Congo which, according to health authorities this week, has recorded 465 suspected cases and nine deaths from the disease this year.
“We are not safe until everyone is safe”
Nigeria, one of four African countries where monkeypox is endemic, has recorded sporadic cases every year since 2017.
It has confirmed 21 cases of monkeypox so far this year, according to Ifedayo Adetifa, head of the national center for disease control.
Nigerian health authorities have bolstered a digital surveillance system that has helped in the early detection of cases, he said.
“It’s important that we do everything we can to stop this,” Dr Adetifa said.
“We are in a globally connected world…we are not safe until everyone is safe.”
The biopharmaceutical industry has pledged in recent weeks to provide vaccines, treatments and develop more diagnostics to fight monkeypox as the viral disease spreads in many parts of the developed world.
“We have to recognize that this is not a new disease, it is not something that we have just learned about in the world,” said Daniel Bausch, senior director of emerging threats and of global health security at FIND, the global alliance for diagnostics. .
“We now have all this interest in biotechnology because it’s happening in high-income countries.
“But how can we ensure that… these scientific gains really reach the people who need them more consistently in sub-Saharan Africa?”
The comment comes as concern grows about pathogens that commonly circulate in animals and spread to humans.
The WHO warned on Wednesday that animals and humans are changing their behavior, including their foraging habits, to adapt to rapidly changing weather conditions linked to climate change.
This suggests that pathogens that were once generally restricted to certain geographic areas are more likely to spread further and potentially move back and forth between humans and susceptible animal species.
On Thursday, some health experts raised concerns about the transmission of monkeypox and other infectious diseases to animals via human medical waste.
They warned that constant vigilance and global cooperation were imperative to thwart the current outbreak of monkeypox.
William Karesh, chair of the World Organization for Animal Health’s wildlife task force, said it was important to limit the number of spillover events.
Job , updated