WHO: Most sequenced monkeypox cases in Africa evolved from West African version

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday revealed that the continent has had more than 1,800 suspected monkeypox cases since the beginning of the year.

Monkeypox belongs to the Poxviridae family of viruses, which includes smallpox. Picture: CDC/Cynthia S. Goldsmith

CAPE TOWN - Most sequenced monkeypox cases in Africa show that it has evolved from the viral disease's West African ancestry.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday revealed that the continent has had more than 1,800 suspected monkeypox cases since the beginning of the year.

Cases have been detected in 13 African nations.

The World Health Organization said that the monkeypox outbreak did not yet constitute a public health emergency of international concern.

WHO regional director, Doctor Matshidiso Moeti, said that tracking the course of the virus's spread through genomic sequencing was key.

"At the moment, seven countries can do this and we have reports from South Africa and Nigeria that a total of 300 samples have been sequenced since the beginning of the year and the majority of these showed the West African strain of the virus," Moeti said.

National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) executive director, Professor Adrian Puren, stressed that there was no need for panic, but it was important to create an environment where people who presented with symptoms could be tested.

"We should acknowledge that the infection is here and that it's most likely been imported, given that there's no travel history, so there's likely to be other cases."

The NICD said that the isolation of confirmed cases and the tracing of possible contacts helped prevent the disease's spread and also interrupted the cycle of transmission.