Monkeypox On the Rise in Africa, United States and Europe – says WHO

With rising cases of Monkeypox not only in Africa but also in the United States and Europe, the world is now experiencing shivering fears for the next tremendous negative impact similar to Covid-19. It all began the same way, the first case of Covid-19, and rapidly spread throughout the world. Soon to forget the world-wide border closures and other restrictions.

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said about the plans on reconvening a meeting of his organization’s Emergency Committee to critically assess the current state of the monkeypox outbreak in Western countries.

Ghebreyesus’s statement implies directing a special focus, considering current spread and scale of the monkeypox virus outbreak, on Western countries. According to WHO estimation and description or better still categorization, the western countries are “nonendemic” countries.

In his office, Ghebreyesus calculated that more than 7,000 cases have been confirmed in 60 countries so far, with Europe currently the epicenter of the outbreak. Cases began emerging in Europe and the United States in May. Many of the individuals who contracted the virus had traveled internationally. Monkeypox is endemic in some central and western African countries, but Tedros noted that the pathogen was now also being detected in nonendemic African countries.

“My teams are following the data closely. I plan to reconvene the Emergency Committee July 18 or sooner so they are updated on the current epidemiology and evolution of the outbreak, and implementation of counter measures,” he said, Reuters reported.

In June, the WHO’s Emergency Committee said the monkeypox outbreak did not warrant declaring a global health emergency despite the rapid rise in cases. At the time, the health organization said the situation was “unusual” but did not constitute a global health emergency, despite opposing views expressed by some members of the committee.

Health experts, however, referring to official statements, that many out of thoughtlessness, have a wide variety of interests to defend and routinely calculate figures, without dealing with the root cause and place of origin. Until today the root cause and place of origin of Covid-19 still remains as a mystery. 

The recent outbreak has raised cries of double standards from global health activists, who argue that monkeypox has been an ongoing health issue in some African countries for years but is only now garnering sincere attention as it affects Western nations. More than 70 deaths due to monkeypox have been reported in Africa so far this year, while no deaths directly linked to the virus have been confirmed in nonendemic countries.

The WHO has previously acknowledged that monkeypox has been neglected for several years now. Reports, carefully monitored by this author, indicate that the disease is endemic in parts of Africa, where people have become infected through bites from rodents or small animals. The monkeypox virus does not usually spread easily among people. Most monkeypox patients experience fever, body aches, chills and fatigue. People with more serious illness may develop a rash and lesions on the face and hands that can spread to other parts of the body.

WHO said it counted 6,027 laboratory-confirmed cases of monkeypox from 59 countries as at the first week July, an increase of 2,614 cases since its last count that ended June 27. It said three people have now died in connection with the outbreak, all of them in Africa. Most of the cases were reported in Europe and Africa. New cases have also been reported in Ghana and Benin in addition to previously mentioned Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria. 

Therefore, WHO should not depend on the continuity of mysterious outbreak, but go to the roots and take the needed actions. It has, appreciably for now, confined its health recommendations to a standard set of hygienic requirements and did not insist on travel and trade restrictions. Beyond that, it has to establish a taskforce for keeping high surveillance across the Central and West African region, and monitor travellers from the these region.  

Within Africa, WHO said monkeypox has spread to countries where it hasn’t previously been seen, including South Africa, Ghana and Morocco. But more than 90% of the continent’s infections are in Congo and Nigeria, according to WHO’s Africa Director, Dr. Moeti Matshidiso.

“We would like to see the global spotlight on monkeypox act as a catalyst to beat this disease once and for all in Africa,” she said at a press briefing early July. WHO noted that similar to the scramble last year for COVID-19 vaccines, countries with supplies of vaccines to stop monkeypox are not yet sharing them with African countries.

She further pointed out that the monkeypox has been sickening people in parts of central and west Africa for decades, but the lack of laboratory diagnosis and weak surveillance means many cases are going undetected across the continent.  It would reconsider the decision if  the disease continued spreading across more borders, showed signs of increased severity, or began infecting vulnerable groups like pregnant women and children.

She said that given the limited global supplies of vaccines to fight monkeypox, WHO was in talks with manufacturers and countries with stockpiles to see if they might be shared. The vaccines have mainly been developed to stop smallpox, a related disease – and most are not authorized for use against monkeypox in Africa. Vaccines have not previously been used to try to stamp out monkeypox epidemics in Africa; officials have relied mostly on measures like contact tracing and isolation.

The Centre for Disease Control (Africa CDC) which is an agency of the 55-member African Union, and the African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM) have jointly held its first training on Real-Time PCR-based Monkeypox virus (MPXV) testing for 20 African Union Member States in Abuja, Nigeria. It was the first in the series of hands-on training on real-time PCR-based monkeypox virus (MPXV) diagnosis launched and organized in partnership with Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in June.

With Covid-19, China has been allegedly or suspected as the country of origin. Nigeria, the most populated West African nation, has come under spotlight, allegedly as the place of origin of monkeypox virus, and was detected in several European countries during the past three months. Besides, Central and West African regions, its been detected in external countries namely Spain, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Italy, France, Germany, Sweden, Canada, the United States, and Australia.

Kester Kenn Klomegah
Kester Kenn Klomegah
MD Africa Editor Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and writer on African affairs in the EurAsian region and former Soviet republics. He wrote previously for African Press Agency, African Executive and Inter Press Service. Earlier, he had worked for The Moscow Times, a reputable English newspaper. Klomegah taught part-time at the Moscow Institute of Modern Journalism. He studied international journalism and mass communication, and later spent a year at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. He co-authored a book “AIDS/HIV and Men: Taking Risk or Taking Responsibility” published by the London-based Panos Institute. In 2004 and again in 2009, he won the Golden Word Prize for a series of analytical articles on Russia's economic cooperation with African countries.