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WHO and Scientists push for action on MPOX Strain

WHO and Scientists push for action on MPOX Strain

WHO and Scientists push for action on MPOX Strain

WHO and Scientists push for action on MPOX Strain

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  • Scientists warn of a dangerous strain in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a mutated version of clade I mpox.
  • The strain has fatality rates of around 5% in adults and 10% in children.
  • Global efforts utilized vaccines and treatments to combat the outbreak, but Congo does not have access to them.
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On Tuesday, the World Health Organization emphasized the urgent need to address the spread of mpox in Africa, while scientists separately warned of a dangerous strain in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Rosamund Lewis, the WHO’s technical lead for mpox, stated in a briefing note to journalists, “There is a critical need to address the recent surge in mpox cases in Africa.”

In a separate briefing, John Claude Udahemuka from the University of Rwanda, who has been addressing an outbreak in Congo’s hard-to-reach South Kivu province, described the strain spreading there as an extremely dangerous mutated version of the clade I mpox, which has been endemic in Congo for decades. The strain has fatality rates of around 5 percent in adults and 10 percent in children.

Last week, Cris Kacita, the doctor overseeing operations in Congo’s mpox control program, informed Reuters that roughly 8,600 mpox cases and 410 deaths have been reported this year.

Mpox, a viral infection spread through close contact, causes flu-like symptoms and pus-filled lesions. While most cases are mild, it can be fatal.

In 2022, a different, less severe form of the virus — clade IIb — spread globally, primarily through sexual contact among men who have sex with men. This prompted the WHO to declare a public health emergency. Although the emergency has ended, Lewis stated on Tuesday that the disease still posed a health threat. This month, this form of the virus caused the death of two people in South Africa after doctors diagnosed a few cases.

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Vaccines and treatments were utilized globally to combat the outbreak, but they are unavailable in Congo. Efforts are ongoing, according to the WHO and scientists, to address this issue.

In South Kivu, Adahemuka and other researchers reported that the new strain was spreading partly through sexual contact among men and women, particularly among sex workers.

The team mentioned the need to study other routes of close contact transmission, noting evidence of transmission at school and from caregiver to child. They also observed that the disease appeared to cause miscarriages among pregnant women, as well as longer-term rash and other lingering symptoms.

Leandre Murhula Masirika, research coordinator in the health department of South Kivu province, reported that hospitals in the mining town of Kamituga were receiving 20 cases every week.

“At the rate things are going, we risk becoming a source of cases for other countries,” said Kacita. South Kivu borders Rwanda and Burundi.

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