Saturday July 02, 2022

Europe ‘epicentre’ of monkeypox outbreak: WHO

The magnitude of this outbreak poses a real risk, says WHO's regional chief

June 15, 2022
Regional Director WHO Europe Hans Kluge. Screengrab
Regional Director WHO Europe Hans Kluge. Screengrab

COPENHAGEN: The World Health Organisation (WHO) said Wednesday Europe remained the epicentre of the global monkeypox outbreak, which posed a "real risk" with more than 1,500 cases reported in the region.

The UN health body already announced on Tuesday that it would hold an emergency meeting next week to determine whether to classify the outbreak as a public health emergency of international concern.

"Europe remains the epicentre of this escalating outbreak with 25 countries reporting more than 1,500 cases, or 85% of the global total," Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, told a press conference Wednesday.

WHO’s European region comprises 53 countries, including several in Central Asia.

"The magnitude of this outbreak poses a real risk. The longer the virus circulates, the more it will extend its reach, and the stronger the disease’s foothold will get in non-endemic countries," Kluge said.

Until the past few months, monkeypox had generally been confined to Western and Central Africa.

He stressed "that the monkeypox virus is not in itself attached to any specific group."

The regional director also warned that the risk was increasing as summer had arrived with "tourism, various Pride events, music festivals and other mass gatherings planned across the region."

"These events are powerful opportunities to engage with young and highly mobile people," Kluge said, but stressed that "monkeypox is not a reason to cancel events, but an opportunity to leverage them to drive our engagement."

The EU announced Tuesday that it had purchased almost 110,000 vaccine doses to help tackle the outbreak, though the WHO does not recommend mass vaccination against monkeypox.