The rare monkeypox virus, which is mainly prevalent in West and Central Africa, has been detected in several European and North American countries since the beginning of May. There have been 20 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the UK and over 40 in Spain. Germany, Sweden, Canada, the US and Australia have each had a few isolated cases.
Belgian Fetish Festival Goers Infected
The virus has now also been detected in three people in Belgium. As “Welt” reports, the cases there are related to a large fetish festival in Antwerp. The organizers of the “Darkland Festival”, which took place in early May, said on Friday that the Belgian authorities had linked the contagion to the festival.
The organizers said there was “a reasonable assumption” that the virus was probably transmitted by visitors from abroad. According to the organizers, the Darkland Festival is aimed at the “various groups of the gay fetish community”.
The cases in Belgium are not the only ones linked to sexual contact. A large proportion of the cases registered worldwide have been found in men who have had sexual contact with other men. For this reason, the health authorities in Madrid have closed the temporary closure of a gay sauna.
WHO warns of rapid spread in summer
The World Health Organization (WHO) had called for a rigorous follow-up of all contacts of those affected. Clinics and the population would have to be made aware of the symptoms. A WHO special meeting was held on Friday due to the rapid spread of the virus. According to WHO information, it has so far been mainly men who have sex with men who have become infected.
The WHO warns of a rapid spread of monkeypox in Europe in the coming months. “I’m worried that the transmission could accelerate,” said WHO Europe Director Hans Kluge (53) on Friday, referring to events, festivals and parties that often take place in summer. According to Kluge, the spread of the rare disease is “atypical”. “All but one of the most recent cases have no relevant travel history to areas where monkeypox is endemic,” Kluge said.
Pandemic expert Peter Horby from the University of Oxford was also puzzled by the spread of monkeypox. Horby told the BBC that it was an “unusual situation” because the virus was being transmitted outside of West and Central Africa. There is “apparently an element of sexual transmissibility,” Horby said.
British experts fear consequences for sexual health
British doctors have now expressed concern about the possible consequences of monkeypox on medical care for sexually transmitted diseases and fertility treatments. Doctors and nurses who come into contact with infected people should isolate themselves, Claire Dewsnap, head of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, told the BBC on Saturday.
In London, clinics would no longer offer “walk-in treatment”, the broadcaster reported: Patients would therefore have to call in advance and describe their symptoms before being given an appointment. Some employees have already been vaccinated against smallpox. Even if the vaccine is not specifically tailored to the monkeypox virus, it should offer some protection – especially against more serious diseases.
Dewsnap said the infections would put even more pressure on already heavily-stretched staff. “I’m not worried about infections and the consequences for those affected,” said the head of the association. “But I am concerned about our ability to maintain good sexual health services and access for all while managing this new infection.” (chs/SDA)
The monkeypox virus is spreading in Europe