WHO: 780 monkeypox outbreak cases

GENEVA— The World Health Organization said that 780 laboratory-confirmed monkeypox cases had been reported to it from 27 non-endemic countries, while maintaining that the global risk level was moderate.

The WHO said the 780 figure, for cases from May 13 to Thursday, was probably an underestimate due to limited epidemiological and laboratory information.

“It is highly likely that other countries will identify cases and there will be further spread of the virus,” the UN health agency added.

Few hospitalisations have been reported, apart from patients being isolated.

The WHO listed the non-endemic countries reporting the most cases as Britain (207), Spain (156), Portugal (138), Canada (58) and Germany (57).

Besides Europe and North America, cases have also been reported — in single figures — in Argentina, Australia, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

One case of monkeypox in a non-endemic country is considered an outbreak.

“Some countries are reporting that new generations of cases are no longer appearing only among known contacts of previously confirmed cases, suggesting that chains of transmission are being missed through undetected circulation of the virus,” the WHO said.

“Although the current risk to human health and for the general public remains low, the public health risk could become high if this virus exploits the opportunity to establish itself in non-endemic countries as a widespread human pathogen,” it said in a disease outbreak update.

“WHO assesses the risk at the global level as moderate considering this is the first time that many monkeypox cases and clusters are reported concurrently in non-endemic and endemic countries.”

Most reported cases so far have been presented through sexual health or other health services and have mainly involved men who have sex with men, said the WHO.

The organisation said many cases were not presenting with the classical clinical picture for monkeypox: some have described having pustules appear before symptoms such as fever, and having lesions at different stages of development — both of which are atypical.

The WHO said there had been no deaths associated with outbreaks in non-endemic countries, but cases and deaths continue to be reported from endemic areas.

The WHO listed the endemic states as Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Gabon and Ivory Coast, plus Ghana where it has been identified in animals only.

From the first seven of those countries, 66 deaths were reported in the first five months of 2022.

Last week the WHO convened virtually more than 500 experts and over 2,000 participants to discuss monkeypox knowledge gaps and research priorities.

Experts stressed the need for clinical studies of vaccines and treatments to better understand their effectiveness, and called for faster research into the disease epidemiology and transmission.


Residents Organize Blood Drive After Massacre at Nigerian Church

Police in southwestern Nigeria are investigating a massacre at a Catholic church Sunday at least 50 people dead, according to media reports. Meanwhile, residents in the city of Owo have organized a blood drive to help the many people who were injured in the attack.

Ondo state resident Sunday Ajibola said he barely got any sleep and was up early Monday to continue his plea for blood donations at the Federal Medical Center in Owo, southwest Nigeria.

The hospital is one of three that Ajibola says are collecting blood for people wounded in Sunday’s shooting at St. Francis Catholic Church.

Ajibola called for donations on social media soon after Sunday’s attack and is helping to organize the blood drive.

He said he gives donors directions and sometimes has to pick them up and take them to the hospital. He said there are about three hospitals in Owo that are searching for blood.

“The hospital is trying their best, but there’s a shortage of blood, so we’re trying to encourage people to donate,” Ajibola said.

“That’s what we’re doing. There are a lot of people that are wounded — kids, grown adults and so on.”

Ajibola could not say how many victims they were trying to save but described the situation as overwhelming.

A spokesperson from the local governor’s office, Richard Olatunde, told French news agency Agence France-Presse Monday that the attackers killed 21 people and injured others. However, media reports from Owo Monday quoted hospital staff as saying at least 50 were killed.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Residents initially blamed pastoralists who have come into conflict with local farmers. But on Monday, Muslim rights group MURIC said elements of Boko Haram were responsible for the attack.

Ishaq Akintola, director of MURIC, said the organization believes it was the Boko Haram because people were kidnapped after the bombing.

“Their attacks are always ferocious, very violent, because they want to instill fear in their victims,” Akintola said. “Boko Haram had penetrated states like Niger state and Kwara. And Kwara is very close to Ondo state.”

The attack triggered widespread condemnations from state authorities and the national government, including President Muhammadu Buhari, who described it as “heinous.”

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) also condemned the attack. The Vatican Monday said Pope Francis was praying for the victims.

Nigeria is struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency in the northeast and a wave of criminal activity, especially kidnappings for ransom, mostly in the northwest.

In recent months, authorities have raised concerns that violence would spread to other parts of the country, but Ondo state was never one of the areas of concern.

Source: Voice of America

South Africa’s President Faces Probe Over Unreported Theft

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa is facing a criminal investigation after a revelation that he failed to report the theft of about $4 million in cash from his farm in northern Limpopo province.

An account of the theft is contained in an affidavit by the country’s former head of intelligence Arthur Fraser, who has opened a case against Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa has not denied the theft but claims that he reported it to the head of his VIP Protection unit, who did not report it to the police.

In South Africa it is illegal not to report a crime and according to Fraser’s affidavit, Ramaphosa tried to conceal the theft, which happened in February 2020 when he was attending an African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Several opposition parties have called for a full investigation into the theft, including whether the amount of foreign currency allegedly stolen had been declared to the South African Revenue Service.

The Democratic Alliance, the country’s biggest opposition party, said Ramaphosa should come clean about the circumstances surrounding the theft and why it was not reported to the police.

“The president is facing a crisis of credibility and cannot hide behind procedural smokescreens to avoid presenting South Africans with the full truth around the money that was stolen from his farm, and the subsequent cover-up,” the opposition party’s leader John Steenhuisen said in a statement.

Another opposition party, the United Democratic Movement, has called on Ramaphosa to take a “leave of absence” while Parliament probes the incident, saying it is not prudent for it to do so while he was in office.

Ramaphosa publicly spoke about the incident for the first time over the weekend since the revelations surfaced, saying the cash was from buying and selling animals on his farm.

“I want to reaffirm that I was not involved in any criminal conduct, and once again I pledge my full cooperation with any form of investigation,” said Ramaphosa on Sunday.

“I would like to say that I’m a farmer. I’m in the cattle business and the game business. And through that business, which has been declared to Parliament and all over, I buy and I sell animals,” he said.

The sales are sometimes through cash and sometimes through transfers, and what is being reported is a clear business transaction of selling animals, said Ramaphosa.

He was addressing the Limpopo provincial conference of the ruling party, the African National Congress, where his political allies were re-elected, boosting his own chances for re-election as the ANC’s president at the party’s national conference in December.

Ramaphosa’s supporters have cried foul, saying the timing of the revelation is part of efforts to derail his efforts to be re-elected party president in December.

The information about the theft was revealed by Fraser, the former head of South Africa’s intelligence, who is known to be loyal to former President Jacob Zuma.

Fraser controversially approved Zuma’s release from prison on medical parole last year, an action that is now being contested in court as illegal. Zuma had been sent to prison last year after he was convicted of defying the Constitutional Court by refusing to testify at a judicial inquiry probing allegations of corruption during his presidential term from 2009 to 2018.

Source: Voice of America

DRC Army: M23 Rebels Kill Two Congo Soldiers as Fighting Resumes

Two soldiers were killed Monday in fighting against M23 militants in eastern Congo, the DRC army said, the latest violence in a long-standing conflict that has escalated in recent weeks and caused a diplomatic rift with Rwanda.

The rebels shelled an army position in North Kivu, killing two soldiers and injuring five. Congo accuses the neighboring state of supporting the M23, which Rwanda denies.

That clash followed a raid on a village in neighboring Ituri province on Sunday by suspected Islamists from another rebel group that killed at least 18 people, local sources said.

Fighters believed to be from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) killed residents and burned down houses in Otomabere, said a witness, a local chief and a local human rights group.

Congolese army spokesman Jules Ngongo confirmed the ADF attack without giving a death toll, and said Congolese forces were in pursuit of the rebels.

The ADF is a Ugandan militia that moved to eastern Congo in the 1990s and killed more than 1,300 people between January 2021 and January 2022, according to a United Nations report.

“We were chatting with some friends outside (when) we heard gunshots, and everyone fled in a different direction. It was total panic,” said Kimwenza Malembe, a resident of Otomabere.

“This morning we counted 18 dead, killed by knives and firearms.”

Irumu chief Jonas Izorabo Lemi said he had received word of 20 dead.

Christophe Munyanderu, coordinator of the local group Convention for the Respect of Human Rights (CRDH), put the death toll at 27, up from a provisional figure of 20.

Uganda has sent at least 1,700 troops to neighboring Congo to help fight the ADF, and last week the two countries extended a joint operation launched late last year.

Source: Voice of America