Children Bear the Brunt of a Growing Mpox Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Children Bear the Brunt of a Growing Mpox Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The mpox outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to escalate at an alarming rate, surpassing previous estimates. New figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) reveal that in 2023, there were over 14,600 infections and 901 deaths reported in the country, compared to 5,600 cases and 213 fatalities in 2022. Disturbingly, children under the age of 15 accounted for 65 percent of cases and 75 percent of deaths. The disease spreads among children while they play with one another.

Dr. Rosamund Lewis, the WHO’s technical lead for mpox, stated that this outbreak is an acceleration of a disease that has long been overlooked. The rapid increase in cases and deaths is a concerning trend, suggesting that the outbreak has yet to reach its peak. Dr. Lewis also acknowledged the challenges of surveillance, indicating that there may be a significant number of unreported cases.

While mpox is well-known for its outbreak among gay and bisexual men in 2022, the DRC is grappling with a more dangerous strain known as clade one. This variant has been spreading unchecked in the population for many years. The lack of control over this highly contagious form of mpox raises concerns about its potential spread beyond central Africa.

If the virus continues to spread in major cities like Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC, there is a significant risk of exporting the clade one variant across borders. It is essential to contain the outbreak in the DRC to ensure global safety.

A waning immunity to mpox exacerbates the situation. Since smallpox vaccinations ceased over three decades ago, the protection levels have gradually declined. Modelling from the Pasteur Institute in Paris indicates that immunity to mpox dropped from 85 percent in the 1980s to 60 percent in 2012. This decline, coupled with population growth and settlements encroaching on rainforest areas, creates an environment conducive to more frequent spillover events.

While mpox has historically been transmitted through close contact with skin lesions, recent cases indicate a shift in patterns of transmission. Sexual transmission is increasingly contributing to the spread of the disease, particularly in urban areas. Clade one has already been detected in three provinces, including Kinshasa and Kamituga, after the first known case of sexual transmission was recorded in the DRC last April.

The response to the mpox outbreak has been limited due to resource shortages. The absence of rapid tests for diagnosing the clade one virus and the scarcity of laboratories equipped to handle samples from suspected cases hampers containment efforts. Urgent action is needed to control the growing mpox outbreak and safeguard vulnerable populations, especially children.

FAQs: Mpox Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

1. What are the latest figures on the mpox outbreak in the DRC?
– According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2023, there were over 14,600 infections and 901 deaths reported in the country compared to 5,600 cases and 213 fatalities in 2022.

2. Who are the most affected population groups?
– Children under the age of 15 accounted for 65 percent of cases and 75 percent of deaths.

3. How does the disease spread among children?
– The disease spreads among children while they play with one another.

4. What does Dr. Rosamund Lewis from the WHO say about the outbreak?
– Dr. Lewis stated that this outbreak is an acceleration of a disease that has long been overlooked. The rapid increase in cases and deaths is a concerning trend, suggesting that the outbreak has yet to reach its peak.

5. What strain of mpox is the DRC grappling with?
– The DRC is grappling with a more dangerous strain known as clade one, which has been spreading unchecked in the population for many years.

6. What are the concerns regarding the clade one variant?
– The lack of control over this highly contagious form of mpox raises concerns about its potential spread beyond central Africa. If the virus continues to spread in major cities like Kinshasa, there is a significant risk of exporting the clade one variant across borders.

7. What factor exacerbates the situation?
– A waning immunity to mpox exacerbates the situation. Since smallpox vaccinations ceased over three decades ago, the protection levels have gradually declined.

8. What is the decline in immunity to mpox?
– Modelling from the Pasteur Institute in Paris indicates that immunity to mpox dropped from 85 percent in the 1980s to 60 percent in 2012.

9. How has the pattern of transmission shifted?
– While mpox has historically been transmitted through close contact with skin lesions, recent cases indicate a shift. Sexual transmission, particularly in urban areas, is increasingly contributing to the spread of the disease.

10. What challenges are hindering the response to the outbreak?
– Resource shortages limit the response to the mpox outbreak. The absence of rapid tests for diagnosing the clade one virus and the scarcity of equipped laboratories to handle samples from suspected cases hamper containment efforts.

Key Terms:
– mpox: The disease outbreak being discussed in the article.
– clade one: A more dangerous strain of mpox that is spreading unchecked in the population of the DRC.

Related Links:
World Health Organization (WHO)
Pasteur Institute

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