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Monkeypox Spreads Rapidly In Latin America

Monkeypox is advancing rapidly in Latin America and challenges the region in the absence of vaccines.

person with monkeypox

Photo: Freepik

LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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Leer en español: Viruela del mono en Latinoamérica: un avance acelerado en la región

On July 23, 2022, the World Health Organization WHO declared the world's smallpox outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). At the time, the WHO warned that Europe was the region most at risk. However, this disease has spread rapidly throughout the world. In the world there are already around 49 thousand cases, according to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC of the United States.

Of the total cases, about half are in the Americas. According to information from the Pan American Health Organization, as of August 29, there are 25,888 reported cases and 4 deaths on the continent. In North America there are 18,947 cases; 6,797 in South America; 123 in the Caribbean and the Atlantic Islands and 21 in Central America.

United States (17,333), Brazil (4,493), Peru (1,434), Canada (1,228), Mexico (386), Chile (344), Colombia (273), Argentina (133), Puerto Rico (99) and Bolivia (69 ) are the 10 countries with the most infections. However, it should be noted that these are reported and evaluated cases. In other words, it is most likely that there are more cases, but accurate records are not kept due to the inconvenience of tracking the cases.

We recommend you read: What is Happening with the Monkeypox Vaccines in Latin America?

Brazil and Peru on the brink of monkeypox emergency

These two South American countries register the highest number of infections. In fact, although Brazil has more cases, Peru is the country with the highest rate of infections in relation to the inhabitants. For the region, the Pan American Health Organization PAHO is the body that is working hand in hand with the governments to bring vaccines to the region.

For its part, Brazil, with the support of PAHO, is negotiating to buy 50,000 doses of the vaccine. However, the estimated date of arrival will be in September. “Initially, only health professionals handling samples collected from patients and people who have had direct contact with patients will be vaccinated. This is because the World Health Organization does not recommend mass vaccination against monkeypox. ", says a press release from the Brazilian Ministry of Health. In Peru, the same thing is happening, so far they are in the negotiation phase of the number of vaccines they will receive. Official sources from the Ministry of Health have not yet said on what date the vaccines will arrive. "We have to keep in mind that there are 100,000 doses that PAHO is buying, but that goes for all of South America. The paperwork is being done, we should already have the answer, and the documentation has been sent to PAHO. We are waiting for the response from the schedule and when they would arrive," said the Minister of Health.

The director, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, celebrated at a conference that cases are falling in Europe, but expressed concern about what is happening in America. The WHO pointed out that the rapid increase in cases in Latin America is due to lack of awareness and insufficient public health measures. Likewise, the difficulty in applying vaccines to the vulnerable population is increasing the spread of the illness. 

In addition, the prejudices and stigmatization against the LGTBIQ+ collective makes it even more difficult to detect the virus in time. For this reason, this is another neuralgic point that governments and institutions must tackle to mitigate the effects of the virus in a timely manner.

Variant Name Changes

A group of experts convened by the WHO has decided how the variants of orthopoxvirus, which is the scientific name for the virus that causes monkeypox, will be named. Before, the name of the region where each variant was developed was used to name it. However, this generates stigma. For this reason, they have decided to name them with Roman numerals. "Currently, it is advisable to try to ensure that the names of newly identified viruses, their variants and the diseases they cause are not offensive to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic group and to mitigate the negative impact of these names in trade, travel, tourism and animal welfare.