Over 6,000 monkeypox cases reported says WHO

More than 6,000 cases of monkeypox have now been reported from 58 countries in the current outbreak, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.

The UN agency will reconvene a meeting of the committee that will advise on declaring the outbreak a global health emergency, the WHO’s highest level of alert, in the week beginning 18 July or sooner, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual news conference from Geneva.

At its previous meeting on June 27, the committee decided that the outbreak, which has seen cases rising both in the African countries where it usually spreads and globally, was not yet a health emergency. 

“I continue to be concerned by the scale and spread of the virus across the world,” Tedros said, adding that a lack of testing meant that there were likely many more cases going unreported.

Separately, the WHI reported two new deaths from monkeypox since its previous disease update on 27 June, bringing the total to three since the start of the year and said the disease had spread to new areas.

Cases have climbed 77% since the last report to 6,027, the WHO said, with the bulk of them reported in the European region. However, all three deaths have been reported in Africa, the report showed.

The update also showed that over 99% of the cases for which gender information was available were among men.

“The outbreak continues to primarily affect men who have sex with men who have reported recent sex with one or multiple male partners, suggesting no signal of sustained transmission beyond these networks for now,” it said.

Monkeypox, a usually mild viral infection that causes flu-like symptoms and skin lesions, has been spreading worldwide since early May.

The fatality rate in previous outbreaks in Africa of the strain currently spreading has been around 1%, but so far this outbreak seems to be less lethal in the non-endemic countries.