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In Central Africa, a deadly monkeypox variant is surging

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  • In Central Africa, a deadly monkeypox variant is surging


    In Central Africa, a deadly monkeypox variant is surging
    Experts are calling for stronger measures to stop a variant found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that's 10 times deadlier than the global strain.
    By Rene Ebersole
    Published 20 Oct 2022, 14:02 BST

    A woman eight months pregnant covered head to toe with lesions. Small children suffering with fevers and painful sores. A father asking for money to buy antibiotics for his ailing five-year-old son after he’d buried two other small children infected with monkeypox.

    These memories torment Divin Malekani, an ecologist at the University of Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who consults on projects with the nonprofit Wildlife Conservation Society to help reduce human exposure to animal-borne diseases. “I saw many cases of people sick with monkeypox,” he says of a trip last year to a remote northwestern province.

    The Sangha River is a popular trade route for goods and wild game such as monkeys, rodents, and deer hunted and sold in village markets in the Republic of Congo and neighboring Cameroon. Some researchers say the key to reducing the risk of infectious diseases “spilling over” from wildlife to people is protecting forests from human encroachment.

    Monkeypox, a smallpox-related viral disease with two known variants, was named in 1958 after it was identified in a colony of research monkeys in a laboratory in Copenhagen, Germany. (Scientists think rodents, not primates, are the main reservoir for the disease.)

    The mildest form of the disease is Clade II, also known as the West African variant, which went global this May. To date, it has infected more than 70,000 people, killing at least 26, in more than a hundred countries and territories, with the overwhelming majority being gay men. Cases are declining, thanks to vaccinations and changes in sexual behaviour.

    Meanwhile, another variant— ten times deadlier—is smouldering in Central Africa.

    The Africa Centres for Disease Control reports that the majority of the 3,500 suspected Clade I (or Congo Basin strain) cases this year, including more than 120 deaths, are in the DRC. Nigeria, where the Clade II outbreak began, has had about 700 suspected cases, with fewer than 10 fatalities.

    Health experts National Geographic consulted about the steady rise of the Clade I variant in Central Africa say countries should be concerned about its threat to global communities and take stronger action to prevent it and other animal-borne diseases from blazing around the world....