Dr. Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) top official in Europe, called for urgent action on Wednesday to control the fast-rising cases of monkeypox seen worldwide.
According to the New York Times, Europe has emerged as the epicenter of the viral outbreak, with more than 1,500 cases identified in twenty-five countries on the continent. Kluge noted that the region accounts for 85 percent of all global cases.
“The magnitude of this outbreak poses a real risk,” he said.
“The longer the virus circulates, the more it will extend its reach, and the stronger the disease’s foothold will get in non-endemic countries,” he continued, adding that European countries need to ramp up surveillance, diagnostic testing, and genetic sequencing, and tracing the contacts and sexual partners of infected individuals.
Kluge added that the global health agency is expected to convene its emergency committee in Geneva next week to assess whether the current outbreak is a public health emergency of international concern.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have been more than 1,800 confirmed and suspected cases of monkeypox reported in four dozen countries where the virus is non-endemic. In the United States, eighteen states have reported at least seventy-two cases. To date, the WHO has not been informed of any deaths among cases.
Earlier this week, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the monkeypox outbreak “is clearly unusual and concerning.”
“I think it's now clear that there is an unusual situation meaning even the virus is behaving unusually from how it used to behave in the past,” Tedros told reporters. “But not only that, but it's also affecting more and more countries and we believe that it needs also some coordinated response because of the geographic spread.”
He also warned that the window to contain the virus in non-endemic countries is closing quickly.
“The risk of monkeypox becoming established in non-endemic countries is real,” Tedros said.
“But that scenario can be prevented. WHO urges the affected countries to make every effort to identify all cases and contacts to control this outbreak and prevent onward monkeypox spread,” he added.
Per the WHO, monkeypox is a viral illness that begins with flu-like symptoms and the swelling of lymph nodes, eventually progressing to rashes on the face, hands, feet, eyes, mouth, or genitals that turn into raised bumps which then become blisters. The virus most easily spreads via open contact with the sores of an infected individual. It can also spread through contact with materials that have the virus, such as shared bedding and clothing.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Finance and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.