The number of cases of monkeypox is increasing worldwide. Europe is the hardest hit. The World Health Organization is concerned. Experts in Geneva advise whether to sound the alarm.
Geneva/Copenhagen – Nearly 5,000 monkeypox infections in humans have been reported worldwide this year. In more than 40 countries outside Africa, where monkeypox was virtually unknown until May, there were 3,308 cases, according to data from the US health authority CDC as of just before midnight CEST on Wednesday.
According to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, there are also about 1,600 suspected or confirmed cases in eight African countries, many of which have known about such outbreaks for years.
The monkeypox emergency committee convened by the WHO began its deliberations in Geneva on Thursday. The experts presented there are supposed to assess whether it is an “emergency of international concern”, the highest level of alert that the WHO can impose.
There are no practical consequences
WHO usually follows the recommendations of experts. This would have no practical consequences, but should awaken all countries to watch for cases and take their own precautions to contain the spread.
“Human-to-human transmission is ongoing and probably underestimated,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told committee members. Most reported cases involve men who have sex with men. In Nigeria, the proportion of women affected is higher than anywhere else. A good 70 deaths have also been reported in Africa. In people with a weakened immune system, pregnant women and small children, there is a risk of severe disease progression in case of infection. “It is important that countries remain vigilant and strengthen their capacity to prevent the spread,” Tedros said.
According to the WHO, the result of the review is not expected until Friday at the earliest. Depending on WHO’s decision, the committee meets at loose intervals over several weeks or months. The chairman is Jean-Marie Okwo-Bele from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Among others, experts from Japan, Brazil, Thailand, Switzerland, Russia, Morocco and Nigeria are represented.
The majority of cases outside Africa were reported in 29 countries in the WHO European region: a total of 2,746, as reported by the EU health authority ECDC and the WHO Regional Office for Europe in a joint analysis. As can be seen from the data, almost all confirmed cases are men. About 44 percent of the patients were between 31 and 40 years old. No deaths have yet been reported.