WHO ignites calls for urgent action on a dangerous mpox strain

The World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that the spread of mpox in Africa needs to be addressed urgently, particularly as a dangerous strain has been detected in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“There is a critical need to address the recent surge in mpox cases in Africa,” Rosamund Lewis, WHO’s technical lead on mpox said, according to Reuters.

The doctor in charge of Congo’s mpox control program, Cris Kacita, told Reuters that there have been roughly 8,600 cases and 410 deaths this year due to the virus.

In a separate briefing, John Claude Udahemuka of the University of Rwanda said the strain spreading in Congo’s difficult-to-reach South Kivu province is a mutated version of the virus that’s been in the country for decades, and he said it was extremely dangerous.

Udahemuka said more research is necessary to determine how the virus is spreading in South Kivu, but it is in part spreading due to sexual intercourse.

A less severe form of the virus spread globally in 2022. The global outbreak primarily affected men who had sex with men but was not only limited to them, WHO said.

Vaccines were largely used to combat the global outbreak, but they are not available in Congo, Reuters said.

Kacita said there is a risk that cases may cross country borders since South Kivu borders Rwanda and Burundi.

So far, 24 of Congo’s 26 provinces have been affected, and it’s the country’s worst mpox epidemic to date.

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