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Spain, US, Germany top infections as WHO declares monkeypox global health emergency

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Spain, the United States of America and Germany have recorded nearly half of the total global monkeypox infections this year.

Seventy-four countries, including Nigeria, had by July 21, 2022 confirmed 16,836 cases of the virus, according to the US Centre for Disease Control.

Spain, the US and Germany recorded 3,125, 2890 and 2268 cases respectively, totalling 8283.

Two other countries with cases above a thousand were the United Kingdom with 2208, and France with 1567.

From the data, the Netherlands had 712; Canada, 681; Brazil, 592; Portugal, 588; and Italy, 407. 

Fourteen countries, namely, Venezuela, Turkey, Thailand, South Korea, Russia, Qatar, Jamaica, Georgia, Costa Rica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Panama, New Caledonia, Morocco, and Martinique, have one case each of the virus.

The ICIR reports that 68 of the 74 countries with the virus are experiencing its outbreak for the first time.

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Europe has recorded the most cases among all continents.

While infections continue to spiral, mortality has been very low. The disease has killed five globally this year.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines monkeypox as a viral zoonosis (a virus transmitted to humans from animals).

The WHO says it has symptoms similar to those seen in the past in smallpox patients, although it is clinically less severe. 


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The global agency explains, “With the eradication of smallpox in 1980 and subsequent cessation of smallpox vaccination, monkeypox has emerged as the most important orthopoxvirus for public health. Monkeypox primarily occurs in central and west Africa, often in proximity to tropical rainforests, and has been increasingly appearing in urban areas. Animal hosts include a range of rodents and non-human primates.”

According to the agency, human monkeypox was first identified in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in a nine-month-old boy in a region where smallpox had been eliminated in 1968. 

Since then, most cases have been reported from rural rainforest regions of the Congo Basin, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and human cases have increasingly been reported from across central and west Africa.

“Monkeypox is a disease of global public health importance as it not only affects countries in west and central Africa but the rest of the world. In 2003, the first monkeypox outbreak outside of Africa was in the United States of America and was linked to contact with infected pet prairie dogs. 

“Multiple cases of monkeypox were identified in May this year in several non-endemic countries, and studies are underway to understand further the epidemiology, sources of infection, and transmission pattern,” the WHO notes.  

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Until this year, the WHO had classified Nigeria as a country with a large monkeypox disease outbreak.

In 2007, Nigeria recorded over 500 suspected cases and over 200 confirmed cases of the virus and a case fatality ratio of approximately three per cent. 

However, the situation has been different this year. The country recorded only 101 cases as of 21 July.

The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control has repeatedly said it had deployed resources and expertise to contain the virus.

On Saturday, the WHO declared the virus a public health emergency of international concern, the biggest call the agency can make on any disease outbreak.

The WHO made a similar call on the coronavirus outbreak in 2020.

“We have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission about which we understand too little and which meets the criteria in the international health regulations,” WHO’s Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, a doctor, said at a media briefing on Saturday, while declaring monkeypox a global health emergency of international concern.

Ghebreyesus said the virus has been moderate globally but high in Europe.

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