Better African surveillance and laboratory diagnosis to detect monkeypox is needed to stop a silent spread of the virus, both the World Health Organization and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said.
“If you’re able to control the spread of monkeypox from the source, particularly from the endemic countries, then other countries beyond Africa are going to be safer,” Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, Africa CDC’s deputy director, said at a virtual briefing on Thursday.
The continent has reported 1,821 cases in 13 countries since the start of the year, the WHO said. Only about 110 of these cases are laboratory confirmed and account for 2% of the more than 4,500 confirmed cases globally.
While laboratory capacity was reinforced during the Covid-19 pandemic and all African countries have the polymerase chain reaction machines needed to test for monkeypox, many lack reagents, the WHO said. The organization is working to secure 60 000 tests for Africa.
“There are a large number of suspected cases in the region, 81% of which are in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This underlines the need for increased diagnostic capacity,” Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s director for Africa, said in a separate briefing.
Three African countries which have not previously had any human cases are now reporting the virus. The two confirmed cases in South Africa are in patients with no travel history, indicating a high possibility of local transmission, the WHO said.
WHO’s Africa division said while monkeypox was raising concern as it spread on the continent, it was not recommending mass vaccination at this stage. Vaccine supplies are limited.