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HEALTH

WHO says European festivals should go ahead despite monkeypox risk

Most new cases of monkeypox are currently detected in Western Europe. The World Health Organisation says this is no reason to cancel more than 800 festivals scheduled to take place on the continent this summer.

The World Health Organisation has said monkeypox should not prevent European music festivals from taking place.
The World Health Organisation has said monkeypox should not prevent European music festivals from taking place. (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP)

The World Health Organization said Friday that European summer festivals should not be cancelled due to the monkeypox outbreak but should instead manage the risk of amplifying the virus.

A surge of monkeypox cases has been detected since May outside of the West and Central African countries where the disease has long been endemic.

Most of the new cases have been in Western Europe.

More than 3,200 confirmed cases and one death have now been reported to the WHO from 48 countries in total this year.

“We have all the summer festivals, concerts and many other events just starting in the northern hemisphere,” Amaia Artazcoz, the WHO’s mass gatherings technical officer, told a webinar entitled “Monkeypox outbreak and mass gatherings: Protecting yourself at festivals and parties”.

The events “may represent a conducive environment for transmission”, she said.

“These gatherings have really close proximity and usually for a prolonged period of time, and also a lot of frequent interactions among people,” Artazcoz explained.

“Nevertheless… we are not recommending postponing or cancelling any of the events in the areas where monkeypox cases have been identified.”

Sarah Tyler, the senior communications consultant on health emergencies at WHO Europe, said there were going to be more than 800 festivals in the region, bringing together hundreds of thousands of people from different countries.

“Most attendees are highly mobile and sexually active and a number of them will have intimate skin-to-skin contact at or around these events,” she said.

“Some may also have multiple sexual contacts, including new or anonymous partners. Without action, we risk seeing a surge in monkeypox cases in Europe this summer.”

Risk awareness

The UN health agency recommends that countries identify events most likely to be associated with the risk of monkeypox transmission.

The WHO urged festival organisers to raise awareness through effective communication, detect cases early, stop transmission and protect people at risk.

The outbreak in newly-affected countries is primarily among men who have sex with men, and who have reported recent sex with new or multiple partners, according to the WHO.

People with symptoms are advised to avoid attending gatherings, while people in communities among whom monkeypox has been found to occur more frequently than in the general population should exercise particular caution, it says.

The normal initial symptoms of monkeypox include a high fever, swollen lymph nodes and a blistery chickenpox-like rash.

Meg Doherty, from the global HIV, hepatitis and sexually-transmitted infection programmes at WHO, said: “We are not calling this a sexually-transmitted infection.

“Stigmatising never helps in a disease outbreak,” she added.

“This is not a gay disease. However, we want people to be aware of what the risks are.”

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HEALTH

Danish LGBT+ group welcomes monkeypox vaccination decision

A Danish LGBT+ rights group says that a decision by the country’s health authority to offer monkeypox vaccinations to all men who have sex with men, and have multiple sexual partners, is ‘what we have asked for’.

Danish LGBT+ group welcomes monkeypox vaccination decision

Denmark will now offer monkeypox vaccinations to all men who have sex with men and have multiple sexual partners, the Danish Health Authority said on Tuesday.

Previously, the shots were only given to people who had been in close contact with a confirmed case.

Anyone can get monkeypox from close contact, not just men who have sex with men. However, high numbers of cases have been recorded in that group, in Denmark as well as internationally.

READ ALSO: Monkeypox: Denmark to offer vaccination to at-risk group

The head of secretariat with association LGBT+ Denmark, Susanne Branner Jespersen, told broadcaster DR the organisation was “pleased” that health authorities have broadened the segment to which vaccinations are offered.

“This is what we have asked for, so we can only be satisfied that they are now coming out with a vaccination strategy which fits with the needs we are seeing,” Jespersen said.

“Being vaccinated does not set aside the general guidelines which have come out, but it will give a higher degree of security,” she said.

The organisation last week called for the Danish Health Authority to offer the monkeypox vaccine to men who have sex with men.

That request has now been met. The vaccine is given as two injections at a 28-day interval.

The health authority is in dialogue with regional health providers and hospitals regarding how the vaccination effort will be coordinated and expects to begin vaccinations by the end of this week, new wire Ritzau reported.

The vice director of the Danish Health Authority, Helene Probst, DR on Tuesday that people in risk groups show be “extra aware” of symptoms, with case numbers currently increasing.

“Vaccination is one part of a strategy with several elements, but it is also important to be aware of symptoms,” Probst told DR.

Typical symptoms of Monkeypox are similar to those most experience with influenza.

Additional symptoms can include a rash in the groin area, itching and discomfort, and blisters in the mouth or on hands. Should these symptoms present, the sufferer should contact their doctor, be tested for monkeypox and avoid close contact with others.

The disease can be passed on to others once symptoms are present.

Latest data from the State Serum Institute (SSI), the national infectious disease agency, show that 126 people in Denmark have contracted monkeypox since the first case was detected in the country in late May.

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