The World Health Organization (WHO) has decided to suppress all distinctions between endemic and non-endemic countries regarding monkeypox, it was announced Saturday. The move seeks to facilitate the development of a unified response to the virus.
The organization's latest bulletin has confirmed that 2,103 cases of the malady had been confirmed in 42 countries worldwide from January 1 to June 15, with one death in Nigeria.
Until recently, the disease was considered to occur mainly in West and Central Africa, WHO noted. But in recent months, cases have been reported in the Americas, Africa, Europe, Eastern Mediterranean, and Western Pacific. Hence, we are eliminating the distinction between endemic and non-endemic countries, reporting countries together where possible, to reflect the unified response needed.
Leading the list of infections was the United Kingdom (524), Spain (313), Germany (263), Portugal (241), Canada (159), and France (125). Europe is the most affected region, with 26 countries having confirmed positive cases. In the Americas, besides Canada, 72 cases have been confirmed in the US.
WHO also considered it likely that the actual number of cases might be higher because the virus may have been circulating unrecognized for some time going as far back as 2017.
In the current outbreak, most cases are of men who have sex with men. The vast majority of them had not been in African countries where the virus is endemic.
The UN agency will decide on June 23 whether the current outbreak represents a public health emergency of international concern. Such a situation would require measures at a global level, which may include directives on mandatory quarantine times for confirmed cases, limiting the entry of people at borders, and other restrictions.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also insisted the COVID-19 pandemic was far from over, with waves of contagions still occurring.
While some countries have already ruled out requesting full vaccination against COVID-19 for entry into their territories as the last frontier towards the new normal, others are choosing to reduce prevention and control measures, while the rest are maintaining the care guidelines.
A year ago, while the world's richest countries were implementing vaccines and while the poorest countries were watching, WHO set an ambitious but achievable goal: to vaccinate 70% of each country's population by mid-2022. That deadline is almost upon us. So, where do we stand?, Tedros wondered.
More than 12 billion doses of vaccines were administered worldwide, which has helped to protect more than 60% of the world's population: the largest vaccination campaign in history, he elaborated. But he regretted that only 13% of the population in low-income countries has been vaccinated with a primary series and only 58 of the 194 WHO member states have reached the 70% target.