Mpox cases rise 7% in Africa as Europe reports 17 new infections

News brief

Mpox virusesIn the latest global mpox developments, Africa has had a 7.4% case increase, with 111 new cases in the most recent 2 weeks; officials report 17 cases in the past month in Europe; and New South Wales (NSW), Australia confirmed its first case in 6 months.

The rise in Africa is almost exclusively spurred by a spike in mpox cases in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to a report yesterday from the World Health Organization (WHO) Africa Region. Of the 111 new cases on the continent in the past 2 weeks, 106 have been in the DRC, with Nigeria and Liberia confirming 2 each and Ghana reporting 1.

The DRC has seen a 23.6% increase in cases in recent weeks and has logged 277 infections so far in 2023. The only other African country to report mpox cases this year is the Central African Republic.

98% of Europe's patients male

According to a report yesterday from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the WHO European office, eight European countries reported new mpox cases in the past 4 weeks, with 17 new confirmed infections. This brings the region's total to 25,887 since early 2022. Six of those patients died.

Among the European patients, 98% are male and 39% from 31 to 40 years old. Of 11,297 male patients with known sexual orientation, 96% are men who have sex with men.

In Australia, officials have confirmed a new case in Sydney, NSW's first case since November, according to NCA Newswire. The patient had not traveled abroad, so it appears to be locally acquired. The state had 56 mpox cases from May to November 2022.

Quick takes: CDC head resigns, mixed global COVID picture, US rise in newer subvariants

News brief
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, today announced that she will leave the agency at the end of June, noting that the end of the national public health emergency signals an important transition for the country, for public health, and for her tenure at the CDC. In a statement, the CDC said Walensky led the country to greater normalcy, improved CDC morale during a contentious time, launched a wide set of reforms that bolstered CDC communications and response, and responded to multiple global threats, including the mpox outbreak. In a White House statement, President Joe Biden praised Walensky's efforts to save lives and lead a complex organization during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic with honesty and integrity.
  • Globally, COVID-19 cases and deaths continued to drop over the past 4 weeks, but levels are rising in three of the six world regions, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday in its latest weekly update. In the Southeast Asia region, hot spots include India, Indonesia, and Thailand. In the Middle East, levels are on the rise in Iran, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. And in the Western Pacific, numbers are up Singapore, Japan, and South Korea. The proportion of the XBB.1.16 Omicron subvariant rose from 2% to 5.7% since the last report, with XBB, XBB.1.9.1, and XBB.1.9.2 as the only other subvariants showing increases.
  • In the United States, the proportion of XBB.1.16 subvariants rose from 8.4% to 12.5% over the past week, the CDC said in its weekly update. XBB.1.9.1 and XBB.1.9.2 proportions also rose. Over the past several weeks, US COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have remained on a downward trend.

Some messages more likely to sway parents to vaccinate kids against COVID, survey finds

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Mom and schoolgirl holding handsA survey of 898 parents found that more were very likely to vaccinate their children against COVID-19 after reading messages indicating that other trusted parents have done so or that the vaccine is safe, but not when the messages said the vaccine is well-tolerated.

The results were published today in Pediatrics.

Children's Hospital of Chicago researchers led the study, which involved data from the Voices of Child Health in Chicago Parent Panel Survey in October and November 2021. The investigators randomly assigned 898 parents to read one of four vaccine scenarios and report their intention to vaccinate each child 0 to 17 years old in their household. A control group received only information on the expected timeline for vaccine authorization for children.

Trusted-parents scenario convinced the hesitant

Relative to controls (37.5%), the proportion of parents very likely to vaccinate their children was greater when the messages indicated that other trusted parents have vaccinated their children (53.3%) or that the vaccine is safe and thoroughly tested (48.9%), but not when they said the vaccine is well-tolerated (41.5%).

After adjustment for parent and child characteristics, the likelihood of being very likely to vaccinate was still higher in the trusted-parents message group but not in the safe-and-tested group.

This is an urgent need because some methods to encourage vaccination, such as correcting myths about vaccines, have been shown to be counterproductive.

The trusted-parents message was most effective among unvaccinated and Black parents, who tend to be the most vaccine-hesitant, but all racial differences disappeared when parents were given the trusted-parents and safe-and-tested messages at the same time.

"These findings have implications for public health messaging and pediatric providers' communications with parents," the researchers wrote.

Senior author Matthew Davis, MD, said in a Children's Hospital of Chicago news release that the findings help clarify how different messages influence parents' intent to vaccinate. "This is an urgent need because some methods to encourage vaccination, such as correcting myths about vaccines, have been shown to be counterproductive and inadvertently discourage vaccination," he said.

Report highlights role of hygiene, infection prevention in fight against antimicrobial resistance

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Sanitizing a hospital bedA report today from the Global Hygiene Council (GHC) calls on governments and health officials to direct more focus on infection prevention in their efforts to fight antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and other infectious disease threats.

The recommendation is one of four suggested steps for improving and sustaining the adoption of good hygiene practices, driving change in public health policies, and boosting preparedness for future pandemics. The steps were identified by a global panel of experts convened by the GHC in 2022.

The other steps include using the hygiene lessons learned from COVID-19—including the importance of hand washing and mask wearing—to guide future public health campaigns, quantifying the economic benefits of hygiene, and establishing good hygiene habits.

The GHC experts agreed at the meeting that hygiene practices to prevent infections, such as targeted surface cleaning of high-contact areas in hospitals, can help reduce the need for antibiotics and should be considered alongside AMR-specific interventions, such as antimicrobial stewardship and the development of new antibiotics. They also urged countries to adapt their national action plans on AMR to include the World Health Organization (WHO) Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) recommendations for home and community settings.

According to the report, only 11 of 77 national AMR actions plans listed on the WHO website incorporate WASH recommendations for community settings.

A predicted rise in the risk of endemics, epidemics, and pandemics coincides with the rise in antimicrobial resistance.

The report urges future public health campaigns and infection prevention and control policies to ensure access to clean water and hygiene resources to help prevent the spread of infectionsincluding those that are drug resistantand to provide clear and practical information on evidence-based practices.

"A predicted rise in the risk of endemics, epidemics, and pandemics coincides with the rise in antimicrobial resistance (AMR), often termed the silent pandemic," GHC Chair Elizabeth Scott, PhD, said in the report. "There has never been a greater need to reduce the spread of infectious diseases using effective hygiene practices to safeguard public health."

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