Statement by WHO Regional Director for Europe, Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge
Copenhagen, July 1, 2022
Today I am reinforcing my call on governments and civil society to step up their efforts in the coming weeks and months to prevent monkeypox from settling in a growing geographic area. Urgent and concerted action is necessary if we are to turn a corner in the race to reverse the ongoing spread of this disease.
The European region remains the focus of this growing outbreak
While the IHL Emergency Committee advised last week that the outbreak should not be classified as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) at this stage, the rapid evolution and urgency of the event means the Committee has reaffirmed its position. will review soon. In the meantime, the WHO continues to assess the monkeypox risk in the European region as high, given the continuing threat to public health and the rapid spread of the disease, with ongoing challenges hampering our response, and with further cases emerging. reported among women and children.
Right now this is the photo we’re looking at:
The WHO European Region has accounted for nearly 90 percent of all laboratory-confirmed and globally reported cases since mid-May, and since my last statement on June 15, six new countries and territories – bringing the total to 31 – have reported cases of monkeypox, with new cases tripled to more than 4,500 lab-confirmed cases across the region over the same period.
Using the latest data to better understand the disease and its spread
It is important to understand what the data from the European region tells us.
The WHO Regional Office for Europe (WHO/Europe) and the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) issue weekly joint monkeypox surveillance bulletins to summarize the situation and provide a common regional analysis of this rapidly evolving situation. parts.
Most of the cases reported to date have been among people between the ages of 21 and 40 and 99% were male, and the majority of those we have information about are males who have sex with males. However, small numbers of cases have now also been reported in family members, heterosexual contacts and non-sexual contacts, as well as in children. Where information is available, it was reported that nearly 10% of patients had been hospitalized, either for treatment or for isolation purposes, and one patient was admitted to an ICU. Fortunately, no people have died so far. The vast majority of cases presented with skin rashes and about three quarters reported systemic symptoms such as fever, fatigue, muscle aches, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, sore throat or headache.
WHO is grateful to the 26 countries and territories that submitted detailed information through ECDC and WHO/Europe using the European Surveillance System (TESSy). We must continue to carefully examine this information over the coming weeks and months to better understand exposure risks, clinical presentations in different populations, and most importantly, quickly identify any changes in the trajectory of the outbreak that would impact our risk assessment for public health.
No room for complacency
So let me be clear. There is simply no room for complacency – especially here in the European region with its fast-moving outbreak extending its reach into previously untouched areas by the hour, day and week.
At WHO/Europe, we work with governments, our partners at ECDC and civil society – including Summertime Pride and other festival and mass event organizers – to address the challenges ahead.
The challenge is the stigmatization of men who have sex with men in different countries. Many may simply choose not to present to health authorities for fear of possible consequences. We know from our lessons in coping with HIV how stigma further fuels outbreaks and epidemics, but our fear of creating stigma to prevent us from acting can be just as damaging.
So once again let me underline the basics that are needed.
First, countries need to rapidly scale up monkeypox surveillance, including sequencing, and be given the capacity to diagnose and respond to the disease. Cases must be found and examined by a laboratory and contacts identified quickly so that the risk of further spread can be reduced. WHO/Europe is working to support countries by providing monkey pox virus testing and associated diagnostic training to 17 Member States. We have already delivered nearly 3,000 tests to seven Member States and shipments to others are underway.
Second, the right messages, delivered in the most understandable way, need to be disseminated to affected communities and the wider public. WHO/Europe and ECDC have issued joint advice on risk communication, mass gatherings and summer events, and a toolkit for local health authorities will be launched shortly.
Third, and last but not least, tackling monkeypox requires strong political commitment, complemented by sound investment in public health. As with any challenge, political leadership is required to support public health response. Transparency goes hand in hand with public trust to ensure that gaps in the response to monkeypox can be addressed quickly and that countries work with WHO and each other for the collective good. The principles of equity and needs-based commitment should be applied in the procurement and use of vaccines. They must be conducted in a manner that generates evidence for this intervention, including the use of standard protocols evaluating the effectiveness of vaccines, and systems to monitor the safety of these products when deployed in different populations.
Monkeypox has once again illustrated how diseases endemic to or emerging in a few countries can quickly spread to outbreaks affecting distant regions, and even the entire world. This outbreak is once again testing the political resolve of individual Member States and the European region as a whole. Let’s not waste this opportunity, but take advantage of the COVID-19 experience to do the right thing – quickly and decisively, for the benefit of our entire region and beyond.
Bhanu Bhatnagar, Press and Media Officer, [email protected]
WHO/Europe Press Office, [email protected]