Major Mpox Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

As Reported in NPR’s Gates and Soda

Major Mpox Outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo is a Worry to Disease docs.


“It’s just a matter of time, if nothing is done, that the transmission crosses the border in the African region and, again, globally,” says Dr. Jean Nachega, an epidemiologist at the University of Pittsburgh.

Nachega is one of a number of public health experts expressing alarm over a major outbreak of mpox – formerly called monkeypox – in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

They say the current situation represents a triple threat.

First, the DRC is seeing record numbers. About 400 suspect cases are reported each week – the majority in children. Second, the strain of the virus that’s circulating is especially deadly, with nearly 1 in 10 patients dying. And third, the virus is behaving differently. Scientists say it is not only surfacing in new areas and new populations (including sex workers), but it’s also spreading in new ways – including sexually – and evading diagnostic tests.

Together these issues have made it more urgent – and also more complicated – for the global health community to respond, say mpox specialists.

“For measles, we know what to do. For cholera, we know what to do. For polio, we know what to do. These are things that have been around for a long time. For mpox, a lot of the elements are new,” says Dr. Rosamund Lewis, the World Health Organization’s technical lead and emergency manager for mpox. “And we don’t yet have all the countermeasures in place that we need in place.”

A Dramatic Spike in Cases

Last year, the DRC recorded more than 14,500 suspected cases of mpox, and more than 650 deaths. Those figures dwarf previous years, and the numbers continue to rise. In the first two months of this year, there have been more than 3,500 suspected mpox cases and more than 250 deaths.

“We are quite concerned about what we are seeing in the DRC. The number of cases there has far exceeded anything that they’ve had reported in the past,” says Dr. Jennifer McQuiston of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

RELATED. CDC: The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is having its largest mpox outbreak ever recorded. Since January 1, 2023, DRC has reported 12,569 suspect mpox cases and 581 deaths.

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Related: GeoVax (Symbol: GOVX) Expands Rights Under NIH COVID-19 License to Include Mpox and Smallpox