Monkeypox cases confirmed in 8 African countries, WHO calls meeting to assess global threat

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  • Eight African countries recorded a total of 68 new confirmed monkeypox cases.
  • Ethiopia, Guinea, Liberia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Uganda have suspected cases.
  • WHO warns that available monkeypox vaccines are limited.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) will convene an emergency committee meeting next week to determine whether monkeypox has become a global crisis.

The meeting will be held at a time when eight African countries, two of which had no history of monkeypox, have recorded cases - adding to 1 900 cases recorded worldwide so far.

"There are now a total of 1 900 confirmed cases in 39 countries across the globe, including eight African countries. Of those countries in Africa, monkeypox cases have been previously reported in six," said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, at a virtual press briefing.

Nigeria has the highest number of cases, while Morocco has only one case confirmed.

READ | Monkeypox: 'Too early to call it a pandemic'

"There have been 36 cases in Nigeria, 10 in the Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC], eight in the Central African Republic [CAR], three each in Benin and Cameroon, two in the Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville), Ghana and Morocco which have not previously reported cases of monkeypox now have five and one cases confirmed," she said.

There were suspected cases in Ethiopia, Guinea, Liberia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Uganda, Moeti said.

She said more needed to be done to avoid a situation where Africa is found unprepared, like during the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak.

"This is clearly an unusual situation which is affecting more and more countries. We cannot afford any potential repeat, and we need to be adequately prepared. So WHO is convening an Emergency Committee on monkeypox next Thursday, 23 June," she said.

The committee will assess if the monkeypox outbreak was a public health emergency of international concern.

Moeti said, so far, countries in Africa had been urged to do more tests for monkeypox.

"As WHO in Africa, we are already ramping up support to countries to urgently increase testing capacity for monkeypox, and we are in the process of procuring thousands of tests [kits] for the continent," she added.

Bavarian Nordic on Monday announced that it would supply 110 000 doses of its MVA-BN smallpox/monkeypox vaccine to the European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) over the coming months.

While there's going to be a rollout in Europe, Moeti said, "...although we are not recommending mass vaccination at this stage, we must ensure we are ready if the need arises. Global stocks are extremely limited at this stage, but we are working with member states and partners on a coordination mechanism to ensure fair access". 

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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