The number of monkeypox cases reported worldwide dropped by 21 percent in the last week. The drop marks a possible sign that the outbreak in Europe may be starting to decline, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday.
The United Nations health agency reported 5,907 new weekly cases. It said two countries - Iran and Indonesia - reported their first cases. More than 45,000 cases have been reported in 98 countries since late April.
Cases in the Americas made up 60 percent of infections in the past month, the WHO said. Cases in Europe, it said, made up about 38 percent. It said infections in the Americas showed “a continuing steep rise.”
The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday the continent had 219 new cases reported in the past week. That is a jump of 54 percent. Most were in Nigeria and Congo, the agency said.
In early July, the WHO’s Europe director said countries in the region were responsible for 90 percent of all laboratory confirmed cases of monkeypox.
British health officials said last week that there were “early signs” the country’s monkeypox outbreak was slowing.
Britain’s Health Security Agency said last month there was no evidence the disease was spreading beyond men who were gay, bisexual or had sex with other men.
Monkeypox outbreaks in Europe and North America were identified in May. Since then, the WHO and other health agencies have noted that its spread was almost all in men who have sex with men.
Monkeypox has existed in parts of Africa for many years. Experts suspect the outbreaks in Europe and North America began after the disease started spreading through sex at two parties in Spain and Belgium.
WHO’s latest report said 98 percent of cases are in men. The large majority of those cases are in men who have sex with men.
The WHO has recommended that men at high risk of the disease temporarily consider reducing their number of sex partners.
Monkeypox usually requires skin-to-skin or skin-to-mouth contact with infected areas on a patient’s skin, called lesions, to spread. People can also become infected through contact with the clothing or bedsheets of someone who has monkeypox lesions.
Monkeypox vaccines worldwide are limited. Officials in the U.S., Europe and Britain have all begun decreasing the strength of the vaccine dose in order to stretch supplies.
The WHO has advised countries that have vaccines to offer the shots to people at high-risk for the disease first, including gay and bisexual men with several sex partners. They also advise vaccinating health workers and laboratory workers and others involved in controlling the outbreak.
While Africa has reported the most suspected deaths from monkeypox, the continent has no vaccine supplies available to the public. The only vaccines there are being used in a research study in Congo.
I’m Ashley Thompson.
Ashley Thompson adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reporting by The Associated Press.
Words in This Story
decline –v. to become less, fewer or lower
steep –adj. rising or falling sharply
gay –adj. sexually attracted to the same sex
dose –n. the necessary amount of a medicine or vitamin taken at one time
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