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Close-up of a healthcare worker wearing protective gear, showing concern while examining a patient during the mpox outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A concerned healthcare worker in the Democratic Republic of Congo examines a patient during the severe mpox outbreak highlighting the ongoing health crisis in the region Image Generated by DALL E

Addressing the Spread of a Deadlier Mpox Strain in the Democratic Republic of Congo

By Darius Spearman (africanelements)

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Record-Breaking Mpox Outbreak in the DRC

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) faces a severe mpox outbreak driven by a lethal strain known as Clade I. Since January 2023, the DRC has reported over 19,900 suspected cases and nearly 1,000 deaths. This surge marks a troubling rise compared to previous years (Source: New York Times). The virus has spread to 25 of the DRC’s 26 provinces, including the capital city, Kinshasa.

Increased Virulence of Clade I Strain

Bar chart showing mortality rates of Clade II (0.1% to 3.6%) and Clade I (1.4% to 10%) mpox strains. Pie chart showing that children and adolescents under 15 years old account for 67% of suspected cases and 78% of deaths from Clade I mpox.
This visualization shows the mortality rates of Clade II and Clade I mpox strains highlighting the higher danger posed by Clade I The pie chart illustrates the disproportionate impact on children and adolescents who account for 67 of suspected cases and 78 of deaths

Clade I is more dangerous than Clade II, the strain behind the 2022 global outbreak. While Clade II had a mortality rate of 0.1% to 3.6%, Clade I’s rate ranges from 1.4% to 10% (Source: US News). This higher mortality rate poses a serious threat. Children and adolescents under 15 years old have been hit hardest. They account for 67% of suspected cases and 78% of deaths (Source: MedPage Today).

Emergence of Clade Ib Variant

Genetic analysis has revealed multiple introductions of mpox from animal hosts in the DRC. A new variant, Clade Ib, has emerged in Kamituga, a mining area (Source: CIDRAP). This variant spreads more easily, especially through sexual contact. Its high transmissibility has raised fears of a potential pandemic.

“The emergence of Clade Ib, with its heightened transmissibility, signals a critical point in the ongoing outbreak. Addressing this variant requires urgent global cooperation and focused public health strategies” (Source: Science Focus).

Global Health Concerns and Actions

The CDC and WHO are deeply concerned about the global implications of this outbreak. The more lethal Clade I strain could spread beyond Africa. They call for urgent global action to support the DRC in containing the virus (Source: Forbes).

CDC Health Alerts and Preventative Measures

As of now, no Clade I mpox cases have been reported outside Africa. However, the CDC has issued a health alert to U.S. clinicians and health departments. They advise considering Clade I mpox in patients with symptoms who recently traveled to the DRC (Source: Reuters). The CDC is enhancing surveillance and expanding diagnostic testing for this subtype.

Importance of Vaccination

Vaccination remains a key strategy in preventing mpox spread. It protects against severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Yet, access to vaccines in African countries has been limited. This limitation persists despite ongoing outbreaks (Source: Precision Vaccinations News).

“Ensuring equitable access to vaccines is essential. The disparity in vaccine availability highlights a critical gap in global health equity” (Source: Science Focus).

Addressing Limited Access to Mpox Vaccines in Africa

Access to mpox vaccines in Africa is severely limited. Several factors contribute to this challenge. Therefore, this issue requires urgent attention and action.

Inequitable Global Vaccine Distribution

Wealthy countries have secured most available mpox vaccine doses. Consequently, this has left little supply for low- and middle-income countries in Africa. Even after the 2022 global outbreak subsided, Africa has not received substantial promised vaccine shipments (Source: LA Times). This inequity poses a serious problem.

Insufficient Vaccine Production Capacity

Global production capacity for mpox vaccines is limited. Additionally, African countries also lack the infrastructure and resources to manufacture these vaccines locally (Source: NCBI). Expanding local vaccine production requires significant investment (Source: Africa CDC).

“There is a pressing need for increased investment to build vaccine manufacturing capacity in Africa. This would enhance the continent’s future outbreak preparedness and response” (Source: GAVI).

Logistical and Cold Chain Challenges

Many African countries lack the necessary cold chain equipment. Consequently, this deficiency hampers the wide distribution of vaccines, especially to rural and hard-to-reach areas (Source: NCBI). Strengthening this infrastructure is crucial.

Lack of Funding and Resources

Global funding for mpox research, diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines in Africa has been inadequate. Furthermore, health systems in Africa, already disrupted by COVID-19, have limited personnel and resources for surveillance and vaccination campaigns (Source: IJS Global Health).

Strategies to Improve Access to Mpox Vaccines in Africa

Wealthy Countries Must Share Vaccine Doses

The U.S., Europe, and other countries with ample mpox vaccine supplies should donate doses to Africa immediately. Consequently, prioritizing countries facing outbreaks is essential. Thus, vaccine equity must be a global priority (Source: AIDS Health).

Ramp Up Vaccine Production in Africa

Increased investment is needed to build more vaccine manufacturing capacity in Africa. Technology transfers and public-private partnerships can facilitate this process. Therefore, local production will improve outbreak preparedness and response (Source: Africa CDC).

Strengthen Health Systems and Infrastructure

African governments and international partners must invest in enhancing surveillance systems, medical laboratories, cold chain, and logistics networks. Consequently, this will enable wider vaccine distribution, especially to rural areas (Source: Africa CDC).

Mobilize Funding for Mpox Control in Africa

Global health institutions, governments, and donors should provide African countries with the necessary funding and resources. This support will help conduct mpox research, secure vaccines and treatments, and implement mass vaccination campaigns (Source: Lancet).

“Mobilizing funding for mpox control in Africa is essential. This includes supporting research, securing vaccines, and implementing vaccination campaigns” (Source: Health Policy Watch).

Improve Community Engagement

Locally-tailored strategies are needed to build vaccine confidence and uptake. Therefore, working with trusted community and religious leaders can help share accurate information. This approach will mobilize people to get vaccinated (Source: Africa CDC).

Ultimately, a globally coordinated effort based on equity, solidarity, and resource-sharing is essential. Ensuring African countries can access the mpox vaccines they urgently need is crucial. Consequently, the world must not repeat the mistakes of the COVID-19 pandemic and must act now to contain mpox in Africa.

About the author

Darius Spearman is a professor of Black Studies at San Diego City College since 2007. He has authored several books, including Between The Color Lines: A History of African Americans on the California Frontier Through 1890. You can visit Darius online at