The World Health Organization (WHO) is expressing deep concerns about the escalating risk of the Mpox epidemic, commonly known as “monkeypox.” The outbreak is rapidly expanding in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), raising fears of international transmission.
The primary epicenter of the Mpox outbreak, formerly referred to as “monkeypox,” is located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). During a press briefing in Geneva on December 15, the WHO reported that the epidemic is spreading rapidly in the country, with over 13,000 suspected cases and more than 600 deaths reported this year alone. This is twice the number of suspected cases compared to previous years.
New Variant Concerns
The WHO had already sounded the alarm in late November 2023 regarding the Mpox outbreak in the DRC, driven by a new variant of the virus. They announced the dispatch of an evaluation mission. The demographic shift in newly affected areas is concerning to the global health organization, as it marks the first time that the Mpox virus is affecting more women than men.
The ongoing epidemic in the DRC is particularly troubling to the WHO because it is spreading to areas previously considered unaffected by “monkeypox,” including Kinshasa. Additionally, it is the first time that sexual transmission among patients with this new variant has been observed. The WHO also notes outbreaks in Asia, including Japan, Vietnam, China, and Indonesia.
Mpox is an infectious disease characterized by a skin rash that can occur alone or be preceded or accompanied by fever or swollen lymph nodes. The virus can be transmitted through direct contact with the skin lesions or mucous membranes of an infected person, as well as through droplets (saliva, sneezing, and coughing) and indirect contact with the patient’s environment (bedding, clothing, dishes, towels, etc.). The illness typically lasts for two to three weeks.