Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the WHO © Belga Image
“The risk of monkeypox taking hold in non-endemic countries is real but this scenario can be avoided”, underlined the director general of the organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a press conference. He therefore encouraged countries to increase their health surveillance measures to achieve ” to identify all cases and contact cases to control this outbreak and prevent contagion.” “More than 1,000 confirmed cases of monkeypox have now been reported to WHO in 29 countries where the disease is not endemic.”, said the general manager. According to the WHO, no deaths have been reported in these countries, unlike endemic countries, which include Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“WHO is particularly concerned about the risks this virus poses to vulnerable groups, including children and pregnant women”, explained Dr. Tedros. He further pointed out that communities living in countries where monkeypox is endemic “deserve to receive the same attention, the same care and the same access to the tools to protect themselves” of the disease, which is spread by close contact. The WHO has repeatedly emphasized that “the sudden and unexpected appearance” of virus in non-endemic countries suggests that it had been circulating for some time, but its transmission was going undetected. However, the organization does not know for how long.
The vast majority of reported cases so far concern “men who have sex with men” but a few cases of community transmission, including among women, have been reported. Sylvie Briand, Director of the Department of Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases at WHO, pointed out that ” the smallpox vaccine can be used for monkeypox with a high level of efficacy”. However, the WHO does not know how many doses are currently available worldwide, and Dr Tedros recalled that the organization “does not recommend mass vaccination against monkeypox”. Smallpox was declared eradicated in 1980. “In the few places where vaccines are available, they are used to protect people who may be exposed, such as health care workers and laboratory personnel,” he noted. Ms Briand explained that the WHO is now trying to find out how many doses of vaccines are available in the world and what types of vaccines they are. “We are also contacting (vaccine) manufacturers to find out their production capacities” and distribution worldwide, she added.