WHO calls for ‘urgent’ action in Europe amid spike in monkeypox cases

The World Health Organization on Friday called for “urgent action” against monkeypox in Europe, in the face of the tripling of cases observed for two weeks on the continent.

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 taking hold in a larger geographical area”.

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

According to data from the UN agency, Europe now has more than 4,500 laboratory-confirmed cases, three times more than in mid-June.

This corresponds to 90% of the cases recorded in the world since mid-May, when this disease until then endemic only in ten African countries began to multiply in Europe.

Known in humans since 1970, monkeypox is considered much less dangerous and contagious than its cousin, smallpox, eradicated in 1980. An unusual upsurge in cases has been detected since May outside central African countries and the West where the virus usually circulates.

WHO experts on Saturday considered the outbreak of cases as a health threat whose evolution was very worrying, but without reaching the stage of a global health emergency for the moment.

Despite this decision, “the rapid evolution and the urgent nature of this event means that the committee (of experts) will reconsider its position shortly”, indicates WHO Europe.

Epicenter of this new contagion, Europe now has 31 countries or territories that have reported cases of monkeypox.

Vaccine

The United Kingdom has the highest number of cases so far (1076 according to the British authorities), ahead of 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 officer, Kevin Fenton, on Thursday urged anyone with symptoms of monkeypox not to take part in the planned Pride march in the British capital this weekend.

In this disease transmitted by very close contact, 99% of cases currently concern young men (20 to 40 years old), mainly homosexuals, according to the WHO.

The UN agency recommended that countries step up their surveillance of the disease, including its sequencing, and obtain the capacity to diagnose and respond to it.

WHO has also encouraged countries to communicate with 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 laboratory to manufacture a vaccine already approved specifically against monkeypox, announced a new delivery of 2.5 million doses to the United States.

These are in addition to an initial order for 500,000 doses from the American authorities made a few weeks ago for this vaccine. The latter is marketed as Jynneos in the United States, while in Europe it is called Imvanex.

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

The disease first manifests as a high fever and quickly progresses to a rash, with the formation of scabs. Most often benign, it generally heals spontaneously after two to three weeks.

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