GENEVA (AP) — The number of monkeypox cases reported worldwide fell 21 percent in the past week, reversing a monthly trend of rising infections and a possible signal that the outbreak in Europe may be starting to wane, according to the World Health Organization. report issued on Thursday.
The UN health agency reported 5,907 new cases in a week and said two countries, Iran and Indonesia, reported the first cases. To date, more than 45,000 cases have been reported in 98 countries since late April.
Cases in the Americas accounted for 60 percent of cases last month, the WHO said, while cases in Europe accounted for about 38 percent. He said infections in America have seen a “continued sharp rise”.
In early July, just weeks before the agency declared the international spread of the disease a global emergency, WHO’s Europe director said countries in the region accounted for 90% of all laboratory-confirmed cases of monkeypox.
British health authorities said last week, after seeing a drop in the number of new cases reported daily, that there were “early signs” that the country’s monkeypox outbreak was slowing.
The UK’s Health Safety Agency downplayed the country’s monkeypox outbreak last month, saying there was no evidence the once-rare disease was spreading beyond men who were gay, bisexual or had sex with other men.
Since cases of monkeypox in Europe and North America were identified in May, the WHO and other health agencies have noted that its spread was almost exclusively among men who have sex with men.
Monkey pox has been endemic in parts of Africa for decades, and experts suspect outbreaks in Europe and North America were sparked after the disease began to spread through sex at two raves in Spain and Belgium.
The latest WHO report said 98% of cases are in men and of those who reported sexual orientation, 96% are in men who have sex with men.
“Of all the reported types of transmission, sexual contact was the most frequently reported,” the WHO said. “The majority of cases were likely exposed at parties with sexual contacts,” the agency said.
Among monkeypox cases in which the patients’ HIV status was known, 45% were HIV-infected.
The WHO has recommended that men at high risk for the disease temporarily consider limiting the number of sexual partners or refraining from group or anonymous sex.
Monkey pox usually requires skin-to-skin or skin-to-mouth contact with the lesions of an infected patient to spread. Humans can also become infected through contact with the clothing or bed linen of someone who has monkeypox lesions.
With worldwide vaccine supplies limited, authorities in the US, Europe and the UK have begun cutting doses to stretch supplies up to fivefold.
The WHO has advised countries that have vaccines to prioritize vaccination for those at high risk of the disease, including gay and bisexual men with multiple sexual partners, as well as health care workers, laboratory personnel and responders in epidemics.
While Africa has reported the most suspected monkeypox deaths, the continent has no vaccine supplies except for a very small stock being tested in a research study in the Congo.
“As we know, the situation with access to the monkeypox vaccine is very current, but there are not enough vaccine doses,” Nigeria Center for Disease Control Director-General Ifedayo Adetifa said this week. but due to challenges with manufacturing plants and an unexpected increase in monkeypox cases, the vaccine may not actually be available until 2023.”
Chinedu Asadu in Abuja, Nigeria contributed to this report.
Follow AP coverage of monkeypox at https://apnews.com/hub/monkeypox