EUROPE: World Health Organization (WHO) officials expressed a strong belief that the monkeypox outbreak can be eliminated in Europe, highlighting evidence that case counts are slowing down in several countries.
There are clear and hopeful indications of an eventual week-on-week dip in cases in many EU countries like France, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Britain, as well as a slowdown in some parts of the United States, despite a dearth of vaccine supplies.
“We believe we can eliminate sustained human-to-human transmission of monkeypox in the (European) region,” said WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge. “To move towards elimination…we need to urgently step up our efforts.”
The Bavarian Nordic’s (BAVA.CO) monkeypox vaccine implementation has been affected by a limited supply of the shot, which is also said to cure smallpox, although suppliers are taking measures to extend existing stocks.
The US, EU and British regulators have supported changing the method of vaccine administration by injecting a smaller proportion of the shot intradermally so that one vial multiplies the shots five-fold.
Besides the vaccine supply crunch and the time for the administering and aftermath of the shot, there are other significant factors behind the slowdown. One major is earlier detection, which provokes victims to isolate themselves sooner and causes behavioural changes, Catherine Smallwood, senior emergency officer and monkeypox incident manager at WHO/Europe said in a press briefing.
“We do have some pretty good anecdotal evidence that people – particularly men who have sex with men who are in particular risk groups – are much more informed about the disease.”
More than 47,600 confirmed cases in 90 countries where monkeypox is not endemic have been reported since early May. The WHO has declared the outbreak a global health emergency.
On top of monkeypox and COVID-19, the world is also battling another debilitating virus, polio, that paralyzes children by the thousands every year, and has been spreading in London, New York and Jerusalem for decades.
The cases appear to be linked to so-called vaccine-derived polio, which rarely stems from the use of an oral polio vaccine containing the weakened live virus.
After children are vaccinated, the virus is eliminated through their faeces after a few weeks. In under-vaccinated communities, this can lead to the spread of the disease, which may undergo mutation into a harmful version of the virus.
While countries like Britain and the United States no longer use this live vaccine, other less-privileged countries do – particularly to stop outbreaks – which allows for polio to spread globally.
The current evidence suggests the polio virus detected in all three locations appears to be genetically linked, said WHO/Europe’s vaccination expert, Siddhartha Datta.
However, what remains to be investigated is whether there are links around the cases, he said.