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Thursday, August 11, 2022

African officials treating monkeypox spread as emergency calls for equitable vaccine distribution

HARARE, Zimbabwe ( Associated Press) – Health officials in Africa say they are treating the outbreak of monkeypox there as an emergency and are calling on wealthy countries to address the glaring equity problems seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Share the world’s limited supply of vaccines in an effort to avoid -19 pandemic.

Monkeypox has been sickening people in parts of Central and West Africa for decades, but a lack of laboratory diagnosis and weak surveillance means that many cases are not being reported across the continent. So far, countries in Africa have reported more than 1,800 suspected cases so far this year, including more than 70 deaths, but only 109 have been laboratory-confirmed.

“For us this particular outbreak means an emergency,” said Ahmed Ogwell, acting director of the Africa Center for Disease Control. “We want to be able to address monkeypox as an emergency now so that it doesn’t cause more pain and suffering,” he said.

Read more: To respond to monkeypox, health officials’ playbook informs failures of AIDS crisis

Last week, the WHO said its emergency committee concluded that the growing outbreak of monkeypox was worrying but did not yet warrant a declaration of a global health emergency. The UN health agency said it would reconsider its decision if the disease continued to spread across greater borders, showed signs of increasing severity, or began to infect vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and children.

Globally, more than 5,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in 51 countries, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of these cases are in Europe. No deaths have been reported beyond Africa.

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

She said that given the limited global supply of vaccines to fight monkeypox, the WHO was in talks with manufacturers and stockpiled countries to see if they could be shared. Vaccines have been developed primarily to prevent smallpox, a related disease – and are not authorized for use against monkeypox in most of Africa. Vaccines have not been used before to try to stamp out the monkeypox epidemic in Africa; The authorities have mostly relied on measures like contact tracing and isolation.

“We want to see the global spotlight on monkeypox as a catalyst to defeat this disease in Africa once and for all,” she said in a press briefing on Thursday.

The WHO noted that like the scramble for COVID-19 vaccines last year, countries supplying vaccines to prevent monkeypox are not yet sharing them with African countries.

“We don’t have any donations that have been given to (poor) countries,” said Fiona Braca, head of the WHO’s emergency response team in Africa. “We know that countries that have some stocks are reserving them mainly for their populations.”

The WHO said last month it was working to create a mechanism to share vaccines with countries with the biggest outbreaks, which some fear could move to wealthy countries such as Britain, Germany and France, some of the agency’s most Large donors and those who already have their own supplies.

Read more: 2 different strains of monkeypox may exist in the US, genetic analysis suggests

While cases of monkeypox have been identified in Europe and North America mostly in men who are gay, bisexual, or sleeping with other men, this is not the case in Africa.

The WHO’s Tyble Traore said that according to detailed data from Ghana, the number of cases of monkeypox was split almost equally between men and women.

“We haven’t seen that yet in men having sex with men,” he said.

Of the cases of monkeypox in the UK, which has the largest outbreak beyond Africa, the majority of cases are in men and officials have noted that this is only due to a “defined sexual network of men who are gay, bisexual, or who have sex with men”. spreading inside.

Scientists have warned that anyone who comes into physical contact with an infected patient or near their clothing or bedsheets is at risk of contracting monkeypox.

In Africa, monkeypox is mainly spread from infected wild animals such as rodents or primates to people. It has generally not triggered widespread outbreaks or rapid spread among people.

Associated Press journalist Maria Cheng in London contributed.

World Nation News Desk
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