European festivals should not be scrapped because of monkeypox: WHO

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

An upsurge in monkeypox cases has been detected since May outside West and Central African countries where the disease has long been endemic. Most of the new cases have occurred in Western Europe.

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

“We have all the summer festivals, concerts and many other events starting in the northern hemisphere,” said Amaia Artazcoz, technical lead for mass gatherings at WHO, during a webinar titled “Epidemic of monkeypox and mass gatherings: Protect yourself at festivals and parties”.

The events “can represent an environment conducive to transmission,” she said.

“These gatherings have really proximity and usually for an extended period of time, as well as lots of frequent interactions between people,” Artazcoz explained.

“However…we do not recommend postponing or canceling any of the events in areas where cases of monkeypox have been identified.”

Sarah Tyler, senior health emergency communication consultant at WHO Europe, said there would be more than 800 festivals in the region, bringing together hundreds of thousands of people from different countries.

“Most of the participants are very 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. If we don’t act, we risk seeing an increase in monkeypox cases in Europe this summer.”

Risk awareness

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

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

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

People with symptoms are advised to avoid attending gatherings, while members of communities among which monkeypox have been found to be more common than in the general population should exercise particular caution, he said.

Normal early symptoms of monkeypox include high feverswollen lymph nodes and a chickenpox-like rash.

Meg Doherty, from the WHO’s global programs on HIV, hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections, said: “We don’t call it a sexually transmitted infection.

“Stigma never helps in an outbreak,” she added.

“It’s not a gay disease. However, we want people to be aware of the risks.”

UK reports 104 more cases of monkeypox, mostly in men

© 2022 AFP

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