Co-circulation of human monkeypox virus and varicella-zoster virus (chickenpox) in the Sankuru district, Democratic Republic of Congo

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Monkeypox virus (MPXV) is an emerging zoonosis with dramatically increased incidence in forested regions of Central Africa in the past 30 years. It is considered the most important virus in the orthopoxvirus genus since the eradication of smallpox (variola), but causes milder clinical symptoms similar to chickenpox, caused by varicella zoster virus (VZV). There have been reports of the co-circulation of MPXV and VZV; however, a sustained outbreak of both viruses has never been confirmed. Here, we use data from a 2005-2007 active surveillance program for human MPX in Kasai Oriental province, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to show that co-circulation has occurred in 9 health zones of the Sankuru District. The talk will present an overview of the study, the potential epidemiological significance of the findings, potential geographical factors involved in co-circulation, and the challenges researchers faced in the field.

About the speaker: Chelsea McMullen joined the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium (ISARIC) in June as the Operational Support Officer. Before this, she completed a Master of Science in Global Health at Duke University, focusing on epidemiology of emerging zoonotic diseases and global health policy. She spent the second year of the programme doing fieldwork in DRC, studying interspecies transmission of respiratory viruses at Lola ya Bonobo primate sanctuary, and working on projects related to Ebola, schistosomiasis and HIV, vaccination coverage and monkeypox with the UCLA-DRC Research Group. Previously, she interned with WHO’s Global Malaria Programme as a Duke Global Health Fellow, and earned a BS in biology from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where she studied the pathogenesis of chordoma cancer.