By EDITH MUTETHYA in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily | Updated: 2022-06-02 08:41

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Test tubes labeled “Monkeypox virus positive and negative” are seen in this illustration taken May 23, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

As efforts are underway to contain the current outbreak of monkeypox in nonendemic Western countries, the World Health Organization is calling for support for African countries, where the disease is endemic, to strengthen surveillance and response for the viral disease.

“We must avoid having two different responses to monkeypox-one for Western countries which are only now experiencing significant transmission and another for Africa,” said Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, in a statement on Tuesday.

“We must work together and have joined-up global actions, which include Africa’s experience, expertise and needs. This is the only way to ensure we reinforce surveillance and better understand the evolution of the disease, while scaling up readiness and response to curb any further spread.”

By mid-May, seven African countries had reported 1,392 suspected monkeypox cases and 44 confirmed cases, the WHO said. These include Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone.

To prevent further infections in the continent, the WHO is supporting efforts to bolster laboratory diagnosis, disease surveillance, readiness and response actions in partnership with regional institutions, technical and financial partners.

The United Nations agency is also providing expertise through crucial technical guidance on testing, clinical care, preventing and controlling infections.

This is in addition to the guidance on how to inform and educate the public about the disease and its risks, and how to collaborate with communities to support disease control efforts.

The WHO said even though monkeypox has not spread to new nonendemic countries in Africa, the virus has been expanding its geographic reach within countries with outbreaks in recent years.

In Nigeria, the disease was reported mainly in the southern part of the country until 2019. But since 2020, it has moved into the central, eastern and northern parts of the country.

“Africa has successfully contained past monkeypox outbreaks and from what we know about the virus and modes of transmission, the rise in cases can be stopped,” Moeti said.

Although monkeypox is not new to Africa, the current outbreak in nonendemic countries, mostly in Europe and North America, has raised concerns among scientists.

The health agency also said on Tuesday that it aimed to contain the monkeypox outbreak by stopping human transmission to the maximum extent possible, warning that the potential for further transmission in Europe and elsewhere this summer is high.

In a statement, the WHO said its European region “remained at the epicenter of the largest and most geographically widespread monkeypox outbreak ever reported outside of endemic areas in western and central Africa”.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

Post time: Jun-06-2022