WHO, scientists call for urgent action on mpox strain

 The surge of mpox cases in Africa, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is a pressing health crisis that requires immediate attention, as highlighted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and regional scientists. Here are the key points from the recent briefings and updates:

Urgency and Scale of the Outbreak

  • Rosamund Lewis, the WHO’s technical lead for mpox, emphasized the critical need to address the escalating mpox cases in Africa.
  • John Claude Udahemuka, from the University of Rwanda, noted that a dangerous, mutated strain of clade I mpox, which has been endemic in Congo for decades, is now spreading in the hard-to-reach South Kivu province. This strain has high fatality rates: approximately 5% in adults and 10% in children.

Statistics and Impact

  • This year, 8,600 mpox cases and 410 deaths have been reported in Congo, according to Cris Kacita, the doctor leading the country’s mpox control program.
  • Mpox, which spreads through close contact and causes flu-like symptoms and pus-filled lesions, can be fatal, though most cases are mild.

Transmission and Concerns

  • The strain in South Kivu is spreading through both sexual contact (among men and women, particularly sex workers) and other close contact routes, including at schools and between caregivers and children.
  • The disease is also linked to miscarriages in pregnant women and can cause long-term symptoms such as rashes.
  • Hospitals in mining towns like Kamituga are seeing around 20 new cases each week, with 24 of Congo’s 26 provinces affected, making it the worst mpox epidemic in the country’s history.

Regional and Global Threat

  • With South Kivu bordering Rwanda and Burundi, there is a significant risk of the virus spreading to neighboring countries.
  • Despite the global focus on the clade IIb mpox strain, which caused a public health emergency in 2022 primarily among men who have sex with men, the current strain in Congo is a more severe health threat.
  • Vaccines and treatments used in the global outbreak are not available in Congo, exacerbating the crisis.

Response and Actions

  • Efforts are ongoing to address the lack of vaccines and treatments in Congo.
  • The WHO and local researchers are studying transmission routes and working to contain the outbreak.


The situation in Congo underscores the need for a robust and immediate international response to contain the mpox outbreak, provide necessary medical supplies, and prevent further spread, particularly given the high fatality rates and potential for cross-border transmission.

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