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New monkeypox cases have tripled in Europe since June 15, the WHO regional chief says

Europe is at the center of the monkeypox outbreak — and it must act quickly to prevent the virus from becoming established, the WHO says. Here, a medical laboratory technician works with suspected monkeypox samples to be tested at La Paz hospital in Madrid, Spain, last month.
Pablo Blazquez Dominguez
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Europe is at the center of the monkeypox outbreak — and it must act quickly to prevent the virus from becoming established, the WHO says. Here, a medical laboratory technician works with suspected monkeypox samples to be tested at La Paz hospital in Madrid, Spain, last month.

Monkeypox is continuously reaching new parts of Europe, where the number of new cases has tripled since June 15 to more than 4,500 laboratory confirmed cases, the World Health Organization's regional director for Europe, Dr. Hans Kluge, said in a statement on Friday.

Europe accounts for nearly 90% of all confirmed and reported cases worldwide since mid-May, Kluge said, adding that 31 countries and areas in the region have now reported at least one monkeypox case.

The U.K. has reported more than 1,000 monkeypox cases — the most in Europe — followed by Germany (838), Spain (736), Portugal (365), and France (350), according to the latest joint bulletin from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the WHO's regional office for Europe.

The numbers are smaller in Africa. On Monday, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reported that since the start of 2022, 1,715 cases (including 1,636 suspected cases) of monkeypox had been reported in 10 countries. The figures include 73 deaths.

No deaths have been reported from the disease in Europe, Kluge said.

While men still account for most reported infections in Europe, Kluge said, "small numbers of cases have also now been reported among household members, heterosexual contacts, and non-sexual contacts, as well as among children."

Kluge provided details on who's getting the disease in Europe:

  • 99% of the cases so far were detected in men;
  • The majority are men who have sex with men, among patients whose sexual orientation is known;
  • Most cases were people who are between 21 and 40 years old
  • Only one patient was admitted to intensive care in Europe, Kluge said.

    "The vast majority of cases have presented with a rash," he said, and about three-quarters have reported systemic symptoms such as fever, fatigue, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, chills, sore throat or headache.

    Kluge said governments in the region must step up their surveillance efforts, from testing and contact tracing to sequencing.

    Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.