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Monkeypox Surges in the Americas

FILE - Test tubes labelled "Monkeypox virus positive" are seen in this illustration taken 5.22.2022

Monkeypox cases fell by a fifth last week as infections in Europe dropped but the outbreak is going through "intense transmission" in the Americas, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

A surge in monkeypox infections has been reported since early May outside the African countries where it has long been endemic.

The WHO triggered its highest level of alarm on July 24, classifying it as a public health emergency of international concern, alongside Covid-19.

There have been 45,355 cases and 15 deaths this year, across at least 96 countries, according to the WHO's dashboard.

After four consecutive weeks of increase, the number of monkeypox cases newly reported dropped by 21 percent last week compared to the previous seven days, from 5,907 to 5,213.

However, despite a drop in European monkeypox cases, the Western Hemisphere is seeing instances soar.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference Thursday ""In the early stages of the outbreak, most reported cases were in Europe, with a smaller proportion in the Americas."

However, he says, "That has now reversed, with less than 40 percent of reported cases in Europe and 60 percent in the Americas," which is going through a steep rise, he said.

"In Latin America in particular, insufficient awareness or public health measures are combining with a lack of access to vaccines to fan the flames of the outbreak."

The countries with more than a thousand cases are the United States (15,877), Spain (6,284), Brazil (3,984), Germany (3,387), Britain (3,340), France (2,889), Peru (1,207), Canada (1,206) and the Netherlands (1,136).

Among cases with sexual orientation reported, 96 percent identified as men who had sex with men. The median age of cases was 36.

A sexual encounter was the most commonly reported type of transmission, at 82 percent.

"The majority of cases were likely exposed in a party setting with sexual contacts," said the WHO.

Among cases with known HIV status, 45 percent are HIV positive, it added.