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Monkeypox in Africa: the science the world ignored

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2022-06-24 01:30:05

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A woman and her child await treatment for monkeypox at a facility run by Doctors Without Borders in the Central African Republic in 2018. Credit: Charles Bouessel/AFP/Getty

After monkeypox cases exploded last month in countries such as Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom — where outbreaks don’t usually occur — a rapid, global response followed, including the distribution of vaccines in some countries. But monkeypox outbreaks have been occurring in parts of Central and West Africa for years, leaving African researchers there disheartened that such resources have not been made available in their countries, where the disease’s toll has been highest. They point out that they have long been warning of the potential for the monkeypox virus, which has been behaving in new ways, to spread more widely.

So far this year, there have been more than 3,000 confirmed monkeypox cases in countries beyond Central and West Africa, but no deaths have been reported. In Africa, however, health officials have reported more than 70 deaths that they suspect were caused by monkeypox. This is probably an undercount because of limited testing and surveillance capacity, says Dimie Ogoina, an infectious-disease physician at Niger Delta University in Amassoma, Nigeria.

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