2022 monkeypox outbreak

A Data Snapshot on Monkeypox Outbreak – June 2022

Background

An ongoing outbreak of monkeypox was confirmed on 6 May 2022, beginning with a British resident who, after travelling to Nigeria (where the disease is endemic), presented symptoms consistent with monkeypox on 29 April 2022. The resident returned to the United Kingdom on 4 May, creating the country’s index case of the outbreak. After 5 weeks, 4,780 confirmed and 1 death have been reported and affect +50 countries where the disease is mainly not endemic (Global Health, 28 June 2022).

On 23 June 2022, The Internal Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee and WHO stated the outbreak did not constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern at this stage but required an intense response effort (IHR/WHO).

WHO encourages risk communication and community engagement to inform people about the risk (symptoms, transmission, severity, …), use of protective measures for person, mitigate stigmatisation and manage misinformation. European Control Disease Center (ECDC) recommends:

“community engagement approach should be used to understand perceptions and concerns and support targeted risk communication messages to populations or groups more likely to be exposed to the virus. This requires the identification of relevant community-based organisations and stakeholders and leveraging their existing networks so they can communicate with community members and raise awareness using language adapted to their community and through appropriate communication channels”. 

Epidemiology

The first case in a non-endemic country of monkeypox was confirmed on the 6th May 2022 in the United Kingdom (UK). Since May 2022, 4,780 laboratory confirmed cases and one death (as of 28 June 2022) have been reported from over 50 mainly non-endemic countries.

According the Data initiative, Global Health,  the majority of confirmed cases were reported from the European Region (4,117 cases, 86%). Other regions reporting cases include: the Americas (609cases, 13%), Africa*,  (24 cases, <1%), MENA (15 cases, <1%) and Asia Pacific (16 cases, <1%).  One death was reported in Nigeria in the second quarter of 2022.

* Note: This situation does not cumulate all monkeypox cases reported in Africa since 2022 where 1,715 have been reported in 8 non-endemic countries and 2 endemic countries (Africa CDC, 2022). Per the WHO, monkeypox endemic countries are: Cameroon, CAR, DRC, Gabon, Ghana (identified in animals only), Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo, and Sierra Leone.

Total number of cases (confirmed)

 

Total number of cases (confirmed) by country

public interest

This outbreak has generated an increasing interest from the public since mid-May, as reflected in web searches on this topic. Google Trends data shows a peak of interest in 23 May 2022 and a quick decline since end of May. The decline of interest among the global population is significative in Europe. The data shows monkeypox web searches  are still frequent in some countries in Africa (Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Zimbabwe, and Zambia).

The most frequent queries are focusing on general information related to monkeypox such as symptoms, cases or monkeypox disease.


stigmatisation risk

According to WHO/Europe and ECDC, given that many of the initial cases of monkeypox in Europe are among Men who have Sex with Men (MSM), there is the potential for stigmatisation to occur. The web searches data from Google trends illustrates the misinformation associating monkeypox with MSM and the potential stigmatisation risk for this population group.

Disclaimer: The wording of these web searches is as reported by Google Trends and does not imply endorsement by the Collective Service.

Homophobic misinformation, social media comments, or some public personality’s twitter stigmatising specific population groups (MIT Technology Review, 2022), can “hamper public health response and whether this is driving people to hide their illness, to avoid seeking care, or to adopt healthy preventive behaviour” (ECDC, 2022).

Matthew Kavanagh – UNAIDS Special Advisor to Executive Director – explains that stigmatisation could constitute an obstacle to tackling the current epidemic in 3 ways (Le Monde, 25 May 2022):

  • People avoid seeing their healthcare worker for fear of being identified to a group
  • Ressources are not allocated to some issues if they are considered specific to some communities
  • Stigmatisation prevents health authorities from getting a full grasp of an epidemic – by searching for cases within one communauty only for example

Learn more about tackling misinformation

ECDC – Interim advice on RCCE during the monkeypox outbreak in Europe, 2022

WHO – Public health advice for MSM on the recent outbreak of monkeypox (Available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French,  Russian, and Spanish).

Africa Infodemic Response Alliance – Viral Fact Africa

What we heard from Africa

A report by AIRA (Africa Infodemic Response Alliance) shows that the current outbreak came with its share of rumors and false narratives. Focusing on Africa, they noted:

  • Claims by African citizens that European/Westerners are trying to blame Africa for the disease, based notably on the frequency with which the media are showing infected individuals that are black

  • Alleged lack of a cohesive narrative on vectors of transmission
  • Claims that, with COVID interest waning, there needs to be a new disease of concern for the WHO

  • Claims that this is another purposeful disease release orchestrated by Western/European governments and public health organizations

A UNICEF ESAR Social Listening report  shows that monkeypox outbreak in Europe raised concerns and questions among African population on risk of lockdown, travel restriction against African countries.

Learn more about Monkeypox Narratives in Africa

AIRA – Joint Report Monkeypox – 20 May 2022

UNICEF – Social Listening Report ESAR-May 2022

Data sources

  • Epidemiological data: Global.health Monkeypox (accessed on 2022-06-27). Global Health is a data initiative led by research institutions such as Oxford, Harvard, Northeastern, Boston Children’s Hospital, Georgetown, University of Washington, and Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. 
  • Web searches: Google Trends
  • Infodemic risk: AIRA

Publication: 28th June 2022