Rimoin AW, Mulembakani PM, Johnston SC, Lloyd Smith JO, Kisalu NK, Kinkela TL, Blumberg S, Thomassen HA, Pike BL, Fair JN, Wolfe ND, Shongo RL, Graham BS, Formenty P, Okitolonda E, Hensley LE, Meyer H, Wright LL, Muyembe JJ.
University of California, Los Angeles School of Public Health, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Sep 14;107(37):16262-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1005769107. Epub 2010 Aug 3

Studies on the burden of human monkeypox in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) were last conducted from 1981 to 1986. Since then, the population that is immunologically naïve to orthopoxviruses has increased significantly due to cessation of mass smallpox vaccination campaigns. To assess the current risk of infection, we analyzed human monkeypox incidence trends in a monkeypox-enzootic region. Active, population-based surveillance was conducted in nine health zones in central DRC. Epidemiologic data and biological samples were obtained from suspected cases. Cumulative incidence (per 10,000 population) and major determinants of infection were compared with data from active surveillance in similar regions from 1981 to 1986. Between November 2005 and November 2007, 760 laboratory-confirmed human monkeypox cases were identified in participating health zones. The average annual cumulative incidence across zones was 5.53 per 10,000 (2.18-14.42). Factors associated with increased risk of infection included: living in forested areas, male gender, age < 15, and no prior smallpox vaccination. Vaccinated persons had a 5.2-fold lower risk of monkeypox than unvaccinated persons (0.78 vs. 4.05 per 10,000). Comparison of active surveillance data in the same health zone from the 1980s (0.72 per 10,000) and 2006-07 (14.42 per 10,000) suggests a 20-fold increase in human monkeypox incidence. Thirty years after mass smallpox vaccination campaigns ceased, human monkeypox incidence has dramatically increased in rural DRC. Improved surveillance and epidemiological analysis is needed to better assess the public health burden and develop strategies for reducing the risk of wider spread of infection.

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