Mpox Resurgence: WHO Raises Alarm Over DR Congo Outbreak, Warns of International Spread


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New Delhi, India: Just months after downgrading the global threat posed by mpox, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a fresh warning. The ongoing mpox epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has reached alarming levels, sparking concerns about potential international transmission.

“We are concerned that there may be further international transmission” from the DRC, Dr. Rosamund Lewis, WHO’s technical lead for mpox, declared at a press briefing in Geneva. The country has witnessed over 13,000 suspected mpox cases this year, more than double the number reported in any previous year, she added. Tragically, over 600 of these cases have resulted in fatalities.

The WHO had initially declared mpox a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) in July 2022, amid an unexpected surge in cases outside its endemic regions in West and Central Africa. However, in May 2023, with cases declining globally, the agency downgraded the threat level.

However, the DRC outbreak paints a different picture. Sexual transmission, the primary mode of mpox spread, is on the rise in the country, highlighting the vulnerability of specific populations, particularly men who have sex with men. Dr. Lewis emphasized the need for “intensified public health interventions” in the DRC, including contact tracing, isolation of infected individuals, and vaccination.

The potential for international spread cannot be ignored. The WHO is concerned about the porous borders surrounding the DRC and the frequent international travel, raising the risk of the virus crossing borders. Furthermore, the lack of widespread mpox vaccination, particularly in vulnerable populations, adds to the risk.

The news has reignited anxieties about mpox, despite its downgraded threat level. While the global situation remains under control, the DRC outbreak serves as a stark reminder of the potential for resurgence. International cooperation, targeted public health measures, and equitable access to vaccines are crucial to preventing mpox from becoming a global threat once again.

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