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WHO Europe urges vigilance over mpox

Copenhagen, May 18 (IANS) The WHO Regional Office for Europe has launched a new campaign called “Eliminating mpox: Placing affected populations at the heart of our response” to highlight the potential risk of a significant monkeypox (mpox) outbreak.

Although mpox is no longer considered a public health emergency of international concern, recent reports from WHO Europe show an increase in cases, with 17 new infections reported in eight countries in the European region in the four weeks leading up to May 4.

The campaign launched on Wednesday is meant to be a pre-emptive response to potential outbreak triggers, such as large gatherings for spring and summer events, inadequate testing and vaccine access, or the influx of infected individuals from other regions, Xinhua news agency reported.

Key recommendations for health authorities include promoting accessible testing and vaccination in the most affected communities, with clear information on availability and eligibility.

Other measures include developing comprehensive vaccination plans, enhancing health worker skills to identify mpox signs and offer appropriate advice and care, and declaring mpox a nationally notifiable disease to expedite detection and efficient outbreak response.

Richard Peabody, high-threat pathogen team leader at WHO Europe, stressed the importance of these measures.

“Complacency is not an option. Our latest mpox policy brief provides a roadmap for countries to control and ultimately eliminate the disease in our region,” he said in a press statement.

The campaign also aims to offer a platform for the most vulnerable to share their experiences and insights, said WHO Europe.

Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe, said he was optimistic about the campaign’s potential impact.

“Elimination is within our reach, but we must remember that mpox is still circulating. We must renew our collective efforts to stay on course towards eventual elimination.”

This initiative follows the successful management of the largest-ever mpox outbreak in the European region in 2022, which provided valuable insights and refined control measures for the disease, according to WHO Europe.