As global cases of monkeypox continue to rise, health officials are investigating reports of several new deaths, including the first batch of deaths from other countries where the virus is endemic in animals.
There are currently more than 25,000 cases worldwide, and more than 6,000 in the US. The global death toll is now at least 10. Earlier, officials reported three deaths from Nigeria and two from the Central African Republic. On Monday, Ghana recorded its first ever death. Meanwhile, four new deaths were reported in Spain (2), Brazil (1) and India (1). WHO officials are still waiting for more clinical information on the cases.
Initial reports suggest that a 41-year-old man has died in Brazil, who had lymphoma and was immunocompromised and therefore at high risk of severe disease.
The other three cases died of encephalitis—inflammation of the brain—a known complication of monkeypox. In India, officials said a 22-year-old man died after returning from a trip to the United Arab Emirates, where he initially tested positive for the virus. He delayed treatment while in the UAE, but after returning to India, his condition worsened and he died in hospital after being put on a ventilator. Officials there told reporters that he also tested positive for Epstein-Barr virus, the cause of infectious mononucleosis, and that they were still investigating other possible health conditions.
In Spain, 31-year-old and 44-year-old monkeys have reportedly died of smallpox encephalitis. According to earlier reports, both were previously healthy and immunocompromised.
The type of monkeypox virus that is spreading in multinational epidemics is believed to have a fatality rate of up to 3 percent in endemic countries. Although deaths are rare in the current multinational outbreak, health officials say they are seeing a wide range of cases.
new clinical data
“We are seeing new manifestations of the disease,” Rosamund Lewis, the WHO’s monkeypox technical lead, said in a video question-and-answer session on Tuesday. These new cases “include conditions that are very painful and require medical attention, such as secondary infections or rectal inflammation or swelling,” he said.
Lewis noted further reports of deaths, including cases of encephalitis. “It’s very tragic; it’s not surprising at all,” he said. The World Health Organization will provide more information on cases from countries, he said.
More cases and possible deaths are likely to come as the outbreak continues to grow. Some countries, such as Germany and the UK, are seeing plateaus or perhaps slow declines. However, other countries such as the US, Peru and Brazil are still seeing sharp increases.
The total number of cases in the US has reached 6,326, the highest in the world, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The US confirmed its first case on May 18 and added more than 2,500 cases in the past week. Currently, all states except Wyoming and Montana have reported cases. No deaths have been reported so far.
On Monday, the governors of California and Illinois declared a state of emergency due to the epidemic. New York’s governor declared a state of emergency on Friday. The declarations are aimed at mobilizing resources and efforts to combat the emerging public health threat, mainly among men who have sex with men. It is unclear whether federal officials will declare a public health emergency over the outbreak. But on Tuesday, the White House announced that President Biden had named two FEMA officials to lead the nation’s response.
On July 23, the WHO declared monkeypox as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). This is the agency’s highest-level warning.