The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a warning about the increasing cases of monkeypox (mpox) infections globally, with a particular focus on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The latest report reveals that a total of 668 new laboratory-confirmed mpox cases were reported across 29 countries in October 2023. The Western Pacific and European regions were the most affected, followed by the South-East Asia Region and the Region of the Americas. The African Region reported a small number of cases, while the Eastern Mediterranean Region reported only one case. The Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions have shown higher levels of transmission compared to Europe and the Americas.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is experiencing a significant surge in mpox cases. Since January 2023, the country has reported over 12,500 suspected cases and 581 deaths, resulting in a case fatality ratio of 4.6%. The WHO has conducted a joint mission with the Ministry of Health in the affected areas to investigate newly identified outbreaks related to sexual transmission of the virus.
This surge in cases contradicts the WHO’s declaration in May that the global health emergency related to mpox had ended due to declining case numbers. The situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo highlights the renewed and escalating threat of mpox that requires immediate attention. The country has seen an expansion in both the total number of cases and the number of provinces reporting mpox, reaching 22 provinces by November 2023.
Understanding the transmission dynamics of mpox in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been challenging due to limited access to timely diagnostics, difficulties in linking cases to infectious animals, and incomplete epidemiological investigations. Human-to-human transmission has been occurring since the 1970s, often in small household or community outbreaks attributed to presumed zoonotic transmission.
The magnitude of the outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is evident from the high number of infections and deaths reported between January and November 2023. The country is facing a unique challenge as it deals with both the ongoing global outbreak and the emergence of sexual transmission of the virus within clusters.
The global outbreak has been mainly driven by sexual contact among men who have sex with men, but the Democratic Republic of the Congo has reported cases of a different strain of the virus so far. The recent cases linked to sexual transmission within the country raise further concerns about the rapid expansion of the outbreak.
The global community must be on high alert as monkeypox cases surge once again, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo at the center of the escalating threat. Immediate and coordinated efforts are needed to contain and manage this public health crisis. The WHO’s call for heightened vigilance and global cooperation emphasizes the urgency of addressing the evolving situation before it spirals out of control.
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