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Declining monkeypox cases shows virus 'can be eliminated,' WHO boss says

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press conference amid the COVID-19 pandemic at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, in July 2020. File Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/EPA-EFE
World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a press conference amid the COVID-19 pandemic at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, in July 2020. File Photo by Fabrice Coffrini/EPA-EFE

Sept. 2 (UPI) -- A recent decline in monkeypox cases in North America and Europe shows that the current outbreak of the virus "can be eliminated" in some parts of the world, officials with the World Health Organization said Friday.

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a speech in Geneva, Switzerland, that few people outside of Africa had heard of monkeypox until earlier this year but that it "has become a household word" in just a few months.

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"It's encouraging to see that in some countries in Europe and North America we now see a sustained decline in cases, demonstrating the effectiveness of public health interventions and community engagement to track infections and prevent transmission," Ghebreyesus said.

"These signs confirm what we have said consistently since the beginning: that with the right measures, this is an outbreak that can be stopped."

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Ghebreyesus added that the virus could be eliminated in regions that do not have animal-to-human transmission.

"But it won't just happen. To stop the outbreak and eliminate this virus, we need, first of all, the evidence that it's possible, which we are now beginning to see," Ghebreyesus said.

"But we also need political will and commitment; and the implementation of public health measures in the communities that need them most. And for those measures to be effective, community engagement is essential."

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Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 53,027 cases have been reported worldwide, with 19,962 in the United States, mostly among gay men.

There have been 16 deaths from monkeypox reported around the world but none have been confirmed in the U.S., the CDC data shows.

Health officials in Texas said Tuesday they are investigating the death of a person who was diagnosed with monkeypox and if the virus played a role in their death.

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The number of new cases in the United States has been dropping since 870 were reported on Aug. 22, the most in a single day.

However, the number of cases globally in the latest emergency of monkeypox has passed the total amount that had been reported since the virus was first identified in 1958, Ghebreyesus noted.

"Although mortality is thankfully very low, many of those infected report severe pain that sometimes requires hospitalization to manage," Ghebreyesus said.

A survey from early August shows that gay and bisexual men in the United States have been cutting back on sexual activity in response to the monkeypox outbreak.

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