European festivals should not be canceled because of monkey pox: 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 strengthening.

Since May, a spate of monkeypox cases have been detected outside of West and Central African countries where the disease has long been endemic. Most of the new cases were in Western Europe.

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

“We have all the summer festivals, concerts and many other events that are just starting in the Northern Hemisphere,” Amaia Artazcoz, WHO’s mass gathering technical officer, told a webinar titled “Monkeypox Outbreak and mass gatherings: Protecting yourself at festivals and parties”.

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

“These meetings have really… close proximity and usually for a longer period of time, and also a lot of frequent interactions between people,” Artazcoz explained.

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

Sarah Tyler, senior health emergency communications advisor 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 attendees are highly mobile and sexually active and some of them will be intimate from skin toskin 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 an increase in monkey pox 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 organizers to raise awareness through effective communication, detect cases early, stop transmission and protect people at risk.

According to the WHO, the outbreak in newly affected countries is especially common among men who have sex with men and who have reported recent sex with new or multiple partners.

People with symptoms are advised not to attend gatherings, while people in communities where monkey pox are more common than in the population should exercise particular caution, it says.

The normal first symptoms of monkey pox include: high feverswollen lymph nodes and a blistering chickenpox-like rash.

Meg Doherty, of the WHO’s Global HIV, Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Infection Programs, said: “We don’t call this a sexually transmitted infection.

“Stigmatizing never helps with a disease outbreak,” she added.

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

UK reports 104 more monkeypox cases, mainly in men

© 2022 AFP

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