The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday said that 5,322 laboratory-confirmed cases of monkeypox had been reported to it from 53 countries — both endemic and non-endemic.
“From January 1 to June 30 this year, we have 5,322 laboratory-confirmed cases and one death,” from 53 countries, WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told reporters.
Of these, “85 per cent are in Europe, followed by the African region, the Americas, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Pacific”, she added.
Even as the case numbers are rapidly increasing, the WHO has not yet declared the virus a global health emergency. It said the virus is “unusual and concerning” and an “evolving threat”.
“The WHO continues to ask countries to pay particular attention to monkeypox cases to try to stop further infections,” Chaib said.
WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had said that they are following the monkeypox cases “extremely closely” and that if the situation further evolves, he would “reconvene the meeting quickly”. However, the global health agency is yet to convene a second meeting.
The majority of the current confirmed cases of monkeypox are male and most of these cases occur among of gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men in urban areas and are clustered social and sexual networks.
There have been few hospitalisations to date, and one death in an immunocompromised individual was reported, the WHO said.
The WHO recently also expressed concern as the outbreak has spread to vulnerable people, including children, pregnant women and those with weak immune systems. Reports claimed infections in children under 18 in Spain and France, while two cases have been found in the UK since May.
While the virus did manifest earlier in children, this reportedly is the first in the recent outbreak.
The increasing trend of infections, majorly seen among men who have sex with men “is likely to continue”, said Ghebreyesus.
“We are starting to see this with several children already infected.
“I am concerned about sustained transmission because it would suggest that the virus is establishing itself and it could move into high-risk groups including children, the immunocompromised and pregnant women,” Ghebreyesus said.