The World Health Organization has confirmed sexual transmission of monkeypox in the Democratic Republic of Congo, particularly in its northern and central regions.
According to the WHO, the spread of this epidemic was mainly driven by transmission via sexual contact among men who have sex with men.
The WHO has indicated that the initial cases involved a man from Belgium connected to the Democratic Republic of the Congo who tested positive for clade I in Kenge, Kwango province during a visit. Subsequently, individuals who had sexual contact with him in the Democratic Republic of the Congo also tested positive for clade I MPXV, marking the first reported instance of clade I MPXV infection linked to sexual transmission within a cluster.
The WHO is, however, concerned about the swift growth of the outbreak in the country, stating that the country is experiencing a significant increase in the number of suspected cases.
“From 1 January through 12 November 2023, a total of 12 569 suspected mpox cases, including 581 suspected mpox deaths (case fatality ratio: 4.6%), have been reported in 156 health zones from 22 out of 26 (85%) provinces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This is the highest number of annual cases ever reported, with new cases in geographic areas that had previously not reported mpox, including Kinshasa, Lualaba, and South Kivu. Among suspected cases, 1106 were tested by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), and 714 were positive for MPXV (positivity rate of 65%)”.
In response, the Ministry of Public Health, Hygiene, and Prevention has prepared a budgeted national monkeypox preparedness and response plan to curb this menace.
Meanwhile, the WHO has cautioned all countries to put in preventive measures to address the outbreak.
“It is therefore strongly advised that countries continue to follow the Standing Recommendations of the Director-General of the WHO issued in August 2023, particularly concerning the epidemiological surveillance of mpox, strengthening of laboratory diagnostic capacities and genomic sequencing of viruses, community engagement and risk communication, making vaccines available, optimal case management, strengthening research to better understand modes of transmission in different contexts, and sustained support for the development of rapid diagnostic methods and treatments tailored to the needs of patients.”