The World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have both expressed concern over the spread of a severe form of mpox (formerly known as monkeypox) that has killed nearly 600 people, mainly children, in the Democratic Republic of Congo this year.
The country has reported over 13,000 cases in 2023, more than twice as many as during the last peak in 2020, with the disease occurring in almost every province.
issued a health alert on Thursday to notify clinicians and health departments about a deadly type of the mpox virus spreading in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The CDC said it was alerting about the possibility of a subtype of the mpox virus called Clade I in travellers who have been in DRC.
Clade I is generally more infectious and leads to more severe infections than another subtype called Clade II. Clade I has not yet been reported in the United States at this time, the CDC added.
The WHO said it is working with the authorities on the response and a risk assessment.
Mpox is a viral infection that spreads through close contact, causing flu-like symptoms and pus-filled lesions. Most cases are mild but it can kill.
Last year, a less severe form – clade II – began to spread globally, largely through sexual contact among men who have sex with men, and the WHO declared a public health emergency.
The WHO is working with the Congo government to enable the country to procure or accept donations of mpox vaccines, currently only available in the country in ongoing clinical studies. There is also a mpox antiviral treatment trial underway.