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Americas are “global epicenter” of monkeypox pandemic as number of cases tops 30 thousand

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Posted: Wednesday, September 7, 2022. 1:58 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reports that more than 30 thousand cases of monkeypox have been reported in the Americas, making it the “global epicenter” of the recently declared pandemic.

Following a request from Member States during a special session of the PAHO Directing Council in August, PAHO secured a deal with the manufacturer of the monkeypox vaccine to make this available to countries in the region.

However, with vaccines in short supply and no effective treatment for monkeypox, PAHO Director Dr Carissa Etienne urged countries to “intensify efforts to prevent the spread of the virus.” This includes effective communication campaigns, using pragmatic, honest, targeted messages “so that everyone knows how monkeypox is spread, how to identify specific symptoms and when to seek medical attention.”

Most cases are concentrated in the United States, Brazil, Peru and Canada, and primarily among men who have sex with men, although at least 145 cases have been reported in women and 54 among people under the age of 18.

The PAHO Director also called for increasing and decentralizing testing capacity, particularly for high-risk populations, and ensuring that healthcare workers are trained to identify symptoms and provide high-quality, respectful care, and called on countries to address stigma surrounding the disease as this prevents those at risk from accessing information, getting tested, or seeking medical attention.

“Stigma has no place in public health,” she said. “If we aren’t proactive in overcoming these barriers, monkeypox will spread in silence.”

PAHO is currently working with countries to prioritize limited vaccine doses for high-risk groups and to strengthen testing. It has also developed guidance and workshops to support country efforts to engage affected communities.

“As we saw with the global COVID-19 response, access to resources and sustained collaboration are key to stopping a virus,” Dr. Etienne said.

“An effective public health response requires us to be decisive, to act fast and prioritize support for the most vulnerable in our region.”

 

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