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Public Health Perspectives: Understanding Downward Trends for Monkeypox, COVID-19

September 07, 2022

Reports of declining COVID-19 and monkeypox cases are encouraging, but there is still significant work ahead to avoid losing ground against both viruses, the world’s public health leaders said today.

The World Health Organization (WHO) hosted a briefing this morning to discuss the global response to the COVID-19 and monkeypox viruses and the next steps to continue the positive trends.

“The global decline in reported cases and deaths is continuing,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said about the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is very encouraging, but there is no guarantee these trends will persist. The most dangerous thing is to assume they will.”

Here are the latest public health developments you need to know:

  • State of monkeypox:  Reported cases are on a downward trend in Europe. The number of reported cases has declined in the U.S. (-40% since early August), but it’s hard to make firm conclusions due to likely underreporting of cases.
  • Strategy:  The WHO continues to recommend “a tailored combination of public health measures, testing, research and targeted vaccination, where vaccines are available,” Dr. Tedros said of the worldwide monkeypox response.
  • Next up:  The WHO is publishing six policy briefs next week outlining the steps to reduce disease transmission and save lives.
  • A staggering statistic:  The number of weekly reported deaths from COVID-19 has dropped 80 percent since February. Still, one person died with COVID-19 every 44 seconds last week.
  • Quotable:  “A downward trend can be the most dangerous time, if it opens the door to complacency,” Dr. Tedros said.

It’s expected that COVID-19 will continue to evolve and change, but the vaccines continue to work well against severe disease, said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead. She said most of the deaths from the virus are from people who have not had the full course of vaccines.

“This virus keeps surprising us, and that’s why we have to remain vigilant,” she said.  "We cannot be complacent to keep track of this.”

A replay of the WHO briefing is available online.



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