The number of monkeypox cases around the world dropped by 21% in the last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced Thursday.
This significant decline may signal that the outbreak in Europe is finally waning, the WHO report suggested.
WHO reported nearly 6,000 new weekly cases, with Iran and Indonesia reporting their first cases. More than 45,000 cases have been reported in 98 countries since late April, the Associated Press reported.
According to the WHO, the Americas accounted for 60% of cases in the past month, with cases in Europe only making up about 38% of the total. Infections in the Americas showed “a continuing steep rise,” the WHO said.
While U.K. health authorities said recently that a decline in new cases in that country may be an early sign the monkeypox outbreak was starting to slow, the United States now has reported over 16,600 monkeypox cases.
Meanwhile, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday the continent had 219 new cases in the past week, a jump of 54%. Most were in Nigeria and Congo, the AP said.
Monkeypox has been endemic in parts of Africa for decades and experts believe the outbreaks in Europe and North America occurred after the disease spread through sex at two raves in Spain and Belgium, the AP reported.
WHO’s latest report said 98% of cases are in men, and of those who reported sexual orientation, 96% are gay or bisexual men.
“Of all reported types of transmission, a sexual encounter was reported most commonly,” the WHO said. “The majority of cases were likely exposed in a party with sexual contacts.”
WHO has recommended that men at high risk temporarily reduce their number of sex partners or refrain from group or anonymous sex.
Monkeypox typically requires skin-to-skin or skin-to-mouth contact with an infected patient’s lesions to spread. People can also become infected through contact with the clothing or bedsheets of someone who has monkeypox lesions.
A vaccine for monkeypox exists, but it’s in short supply. Vaccines are being rationed and reserved for those most at risk including gay and bisexual men with multiple sex partners, and for health workers, laboratory staff and outbreak responders, the AP reported.
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more on monkeypox.