HARARE, Zimbabwe ( Associated Press) – African health authorities say they are treating the growing monkey pox outbreak there as an emergency and are calling on rich countries to share the world’s limited supply of vaccines in an effort to tackle the screaming equity problems the COVID-19 occurs, to avoid -19 pandemic.
Monkey pox has been making people sick in parts of Central and West Africa for decades, but the lack of laboratory diagnosis and poor supervision means that many cases are not noticed across the continent. To date, countries in Africa have reported more than 1,800 suspected cases so far this year, including more than 70 deaths, but only 109 have been confirmed by the laboratory.
“This particular outbreak for us means an emergency,” said Ahmed Ogwell, the acting director of the African Centers for Disease Control. “We want to be able to address smallpox now as an emergency so that it no longer causes pain and suffering,” he said.
Last week, the WHO said its emergency committee concluded that the growing monkey pox outbreak was worrying, but did not yet justify declaring it a global health emergency. The UN health agency has said it will reconsider its decision if the disease continues to spread across borders, show signs of increased severity or start infecting vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and children.
Worldwide, more than 5,000 cases of monkey pox have been reported in 51 countries, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority of these cases are in Europe. No deaths outside Africa were reported.
Within Africa, the WHO said smallpox had spread to countries where it had not been seen before, including South Africa, Ghana and Morocco. But more than 90 percent of the continent’s infections are in the Congo and Nigeria, according to the WHO’s Africa director, dr. Moeti Matshidiso.
She said that given the limited global supply of vaccines to fight monkey pox, the WHO was in talks with manufacturers and countries with stock to see if it might be shared. The vaccines were developed primarily to stop smallpox, a related disease – and most are not authorized for use against smallpox in Africa. Vaccines have not been used before to try to eradicate monkey pox epidemics in Africa; officials relied mainly on measures such as contact detection and isolation.
“We would like to see the global spotlight on monkey pox act as a catalyst to beat this disease once and for all in Africa,” she said during a press briefing on Thursday.
The WHO noted that similar to the scramble last year for COVID-19 vaccines, countries with stocks of vaccines to stop monkey pox are not yet sharing it with African countries.
“We have no donations offered to (poorer) countries,” said Fiona Braka, head of the WHO’s emergency response team in Africa. “We know that those countries that have certain stocks, they keep them mainly for their own populations.”
The WHO said last month it was working to create a mechanism to share vaccines with countries with the biggest outbreaks, which could see some fears that vaccines would go to rich countries such as Britain, Germany and France, some of the agency’s largest donors and who already have their own. supplies.
While monkey pox cases in Europe and North America have mostly been identified in men who are gay, bisexual, or sleeping with other men, this is not the case in Africa.
WHO’s Tieble Traore said that according to detailed data from Ghana, the number of monkey pox cases was divided almost equally between men and women.
“We have not yet seen distribution among men who have sex with men,” he said.
Among monkey cases in Britain, which have the largest outbreak outside Africa, the vast majority of cases in men and officials have been reported to be spread only within “defined sexual networks of gay, bisexual or men who have sex with men”.
Scientists warn that anyone is at risk of developing monkey pox if they come into close, physical contact with an infected patient or their clothing or bedding.
In Africa, monkey pox were spread mainly to humans from infected wild animals such as rodents or primates. It did not typically cause widespread outbreaks or rapid spread among humans.