This June 22, 2022 file handout photo shows a collage of rash lesions on a monkeypox patient at an undisclosed date and location. THE UNITED KINGDOM HEALTH SECURITY AGENCY PHOTO VIA AFP
This June 22, 2022 file handout photo shows a collage of rash lesions on a monkeypox patient at an undisclosed date and location. THE UNITED KINGDOM HEALTH SECURITY AGENCY PHOTO VIA AFP

COPENHAGEN: The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday it saw "encouraging" signs the monkeypox epidemic was slowing in Europe and heading "in the right direction," calling on countries to double down on efforts.

"There are encouraging early signs, as evidenced in France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and other countries, that the outbreak may be slowing," Hans Kluge, the United Nations health agency's regional director for Europe, told reporters.

"It's going in the right direction," he added. But "to move toward elimination in our region, we need to urgently step up our efforts."

In the 53 countries that make up the WHO's European region, which includes Russia and countries in Central Asia, more than 22,000 monkeypox cases have been registered across 43 countries, accounting for more than a third of cases worldwide.

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Last week, the WHO reported a 21-percent decline in new cases around the world after four successive weeks of increases.

In order to eliminate the spread of the virus in Europe, the WHO urged countries to continue with measures of monitoring; targeted vaccinations; identification of contact cases; and engaging with the male homosexual community, where the virus has mainly been spreading.

Kluge cited the example of Portugal, which, "in the absence of a full fledged vaccination campaign, did manage to curb the increase through behavioral change and engaging with the communities."