World Proves Deaf to Monkeypox’s Rising Death Toll in Africa

Areas in West and Central Africa including central Congo have been gripped by a monkeypox epidemic since 2019, but the crises there hardly garnered any international concern until the disease began making its way into other parts of the world. Now, after approximately 77,000 people outside of those areas came down with monkeypox this year and used up most available vaccines, lack of proper testing has led Reuters to consider the officially reported death toll in Africa as a mere fraction of the actual number.

A week-long trip to the region of Tshopo in October saw journalists make contact with 20 monkeypox patients, two of whom died during the visits. These cases were not recorded in any way before the arrival of the team, and none of the suffering patients had access to antiviral drugs, vaccines (none for this purpose are publicly available in Africa), or adequate care of any kind. In that part of the world, the lack of diagnostic facilities and inconsistent transport links makes virus-tracing a nonstarter, according to global population health experts.

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In the West, where a smaller outbreak triggered widespread panic and fear mongering, ten people verifiably perished from monkeypox. The U.S. and Europe have the resources to vaccinate at-risk communities and routinely test suspected cases, keeping the death toll to a minimum and stabilizing the situation in a reasonable time period. The Congo was — and is — not as lucky; more than 130 people have died there this year, according to the Africa CDC.