Monkeypox cases fell by a fifth last week as infections in Europe dropped but the outbreak is going through “intense transmission” in the Americas, the World Health Organization said Thursday.
The WHO sounded the alarm for Latin America in particular, pointing to a lack of awareness and public health measures to control the spread of the virus.
A surge in monkeypox infections has been reported since early May outside the African countries where it has long been endemic.
The WHO triggered its highest level of alarm on July 24, classifying it as a public health emergency of international concern, alongside Covid-19.
There have been 45,355 cases and 15 deaths this year, across at least 96 countries, according to the WHO’s dashboard.
After four consecutive weeks of increase, the number of monkeypox cases newly reported dropped by 21 percent last week compared to the previous seven days, from 5,907 to 5,213.
“In the early stages of the outbreak, most reported cases were in Europe, with a smaller proportion in the Americas,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference.
“That has now reversed, with less than 40 percent of reported cases in Europe and 60 percent in the Americas,” which is going through a steep rise, he said.
“There are signs that the outbreak is slowing in Europe, where a combination of effective public health measures, behaviour change and vaccination are helping to prevent transmission.
“However, in Latin America in particular, insufficient awareness or public health measures are combining with a lack of access to vaccines to fan the flames of the outbreak.”
– Cases breakdown –
The countries with more than a thousand cases are the United States (15,877), Spain (6,284), Brazil (3,984), Germany (3,387), Britain (3,340), France (2,889), Peru (1,207), Canada (1,206) and the Netherlands (1,136).
According to the WHO’s latest situation report issued Thursday, some 23 countries reported an increase in the weekly number of cases. Iran and Indonesia reported their first cases in the past seven days.
Sixteen countries have not reported new cases for more than 21 days, the maximum incubation period of the disease.
Among cases with sexual orientation reported, 96 percent identified as men who had sex with men. The median age of cases was 36.
A sexual encounter was the most commonly reported type of transmission, at 82 percent.
“The majority of cases were likely exposed in a party setting with sexual contacts,” said the WHO.
Among cases with known HIV status, 45 percent are HIV positive, it added.