WHO calls for urgent action on the highly dangerous smallpox strain WHO calls for urgent action on the highly dangerous smallpox strain

WHO calls for urgent action on the highly dangerous smallpox strain

WHO calls for urgent action on the highly dangerous smallpox strain

The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that the spread of smallpox in Africa needs to be urgently addressed, while scientists separately warned of a dangerous strain in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“There is an urgent need to address the recent surge in smallpox cases in Africa,” Rosamund Lewis, WHO’s technical lead for smallpox, said in a press briefing.

At a separate conference, Jean-Claude Odahimuka of the University of Rwanda, who has been dealing with the outbreak in Congo's hard-to-reach South Kivu province, said: "The strain is circulating there - a mutant version of the I mpox type that is endemic in Congo, and has been for decades... "It is a very dangerous time, and mortality rates are about 5% in adults and 10% in children."

Chris Cassetta, the doctor responsible for operations in the country's smallpox control program, told Reuters last week that this year about 8,600 cases of smallpox were reported in Congo and 410 deaths.

Mpox is a viral infection that spreads through close contact, causing flu-like symptoms and pus-filled lesions. Most cases are mild but can be fatal.

A different, less severe form of the virus — clade IIb — spread globally in 2022, largely through sexual contact between men who have sex with men, including “gay men.”

This prompted the World Health Organization to declare a public health emergency. Although that has ended, Rosamund Lewis said on Tuesday that the disease remains a health threat, and two people have died in South Africa this month from this type of virus after a small number of cases were diagnosed.

Vaccines and treatments have been used to combat the outbreak of the disease globally, but they are not available in Congo, and the World Health Organization and scientists said that efforts are continuing to address this disease.

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