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Monkeypox Disease in DR Congo

Overview of the disease

In DRC, human monkey pox was first confirmed in 1970. During the 1980s, the World Health Organization (WHO) sponsored active disease surveillance. After cessation of the active disease surveillance program in 1986, little human disease was reported. In the mid-1990’s outbreaks of human disease were again reported. After 2000, a more focused human monkeypox surveillance system was reinstituted and a recent report on 760 laboratory confirmed cases from 2005-2007, focusing largely on the Sankuru district, estimates a 20-fold increase in human disease incidence from that reported during the 1980’s active surveillance program. Monkeypox is a viral disease that has been primarily reported in western and Congo Basin African countries, such as the DRC. The disease can be fatal. The WHO-sponsored DRC surveillance reported a case fatality rate of 10% in unvaccinated persons.  Prior vaccination with smallpox (vaccinia virus) vaccine provides protection against monkey pox.

People can get this disease when they are exposed to the blood, body fluids or rash of an infected animal. In the Congo Basin area, exposure to another infected human may also be responsible for infection. While it takes its name from the animal in which the disease was first identified, the African squirrel or other African rodent species are believed to be the common host for monkeypox.

CDC’s Support in the Response to Monkeypox Disease in DRC

In September 2010, CDC sent a team of four people to DRC to assist with disease surveillance efforts and implement resources to help address the burden of monkeypox in this country, focusing on the Equateur region. Working with the Kinshasa School of Public Health (KSPH) and other organizations, the CDC team has initiated enhanced surveillance activities for monkeypox, which includes technical support, training and resource sharing.

In addition, a proposal for monkeypox research through KSPH has been drafted. In its current form, the proposal outlines a three-year investigation plan to evaluate human disease, disease ecology and disease transmission dynamics. Research outcomes should aid in providing evidence for disease control efforts, including the use of vaccine. Activities during the first year would include development, review and approval of IRB protocols for monkeypox research.

Next steps

CDC will continue to serve as a collaborator for monkeypox surveillance and will continue to assist in the strengthening of established and new surveillance systems.

The research proposal will be reviewed by CDC’s Program Grants Office, at which time it will likely be revised based on feedback. CDC will continue to support the process of moving towards a finalized research proposal.