Belgium has recorded its first monkeypox death — the third in Europe — as global cases exceed 50,000.
Europe and the US are the hotspots of the outbreak, with 50,496 cases and 16 deaths recorded worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Before this outbreak, monkeypox was largely restricted to Africa and no one had died outside hotspots. The few cases seen elsewhere were tracked back to travel to the disease’s natural home and contained with small scale quarantines.
Belgium's first death was a monkeypox patient with “underlying medical conditions”, the Sciensano public health institute said on Thursday.
At the end of August, Belgium had recorded 706 cases, 32 of them requiring hospital treatment.
WHO triggered its highest level of alarm on July 24, classifying monkeypox as a public health emergency of international concern, alongside Covid-19.
However, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday that transmission rates were slowing in the US and Europe — a sign that the outbreak can be stopped.
“In the Americas, which accounts for more than half of reported cases, several countries continue to see increasing numbers of infections, although it is encouraging to see a sustained downwards trend in Canada,” he said.
“Some European countries, including Germany and the Netherlands, are also seeing a clear slowing of the outbreak, demonstrating the effectiveness of public health interventions and community engagement to track infections and prevent transmission.
“These signs confirm what we have said consistently since the beginning: that with the right measures, this is an outbreak that can be stopped.”
The surge in infections since early May has been outside the African countries where it has long been endemic.
“Eliminating monkeypox needs three things: the evidence that it's possible, which we are now beginning to see; political will and commitment; and the implementation of public health measures in the communities that need them most,” said Mr Tedros. “We don't have to live with monkeypox.”
Cases have been reported from 101 territories, though only 52 have reported new cases in the last seven days — of which 27 were reporting numbers in single figures.
The countries which have reported more than 1,000 cases are the US (17,994), Spain (6,543), Brazil (4,693), France (3,547), Germany (3,467), Britain (3,413), Peru (1,463), Canada (1,228) and the Netherlands (1,160).
Monkeypox was first identified in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1970. Before the 2022 outbreak, there were cases in 11 African countries: Benin, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone and South Sudan.