Spain leads Europe’s monkeypox outbreak as cases mount – National

As a sex worker and adult film actor, Roc was relieved to be among the first Spanish to get a monkey pox Vaccine. He knows of several cases of men having sex with men, which is the leading demographic for the disease, and fears he might be next.

“I came home and thought, ` `Phew, my God, I’m saved,’ ” the 29-year-old told the Associated Press.

But it was too late. Roc, the name he used for the job, had been infected by a client a few days earlier. He joined Spain in the growing number of monkeypox infections, becoming the highest in Europe since the disease spread outside Africa, where it had been endemic for many years.

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He started showing symptoms: pustules, fever, conjunctivitis, and fatigue. Roc was hospitalized for treatment before he was healthy enough to be released.

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Spanish health authorities and community groups are struggling to check an outbreak that has claimed the lives of two young men. They are thought to have died from encephalitis, or swelling of the brain, which can be caused by certain viruses. Most cases of monkeypox cause only mild symptoms.

Spain has had 4,577 confirmed cases in the three months since the start of the outbreak, linked to two rashes in Europe, where experts say the virus is likely sexually transmitted. sex.

The only country with more infections than Spain is the much larger United States, which has reported 7,100 cases.

Click to play video: 'White House says public health emergency declaration for monkeypox will speed vaccine distribution'

White House says public health emergency declaration for monkeypox will speed vaccine distribution

White House says public health emergency declaration for monkeypox will speed vaccine distribution

In total, the global monkeypox outbreak has seen more than 26,000 cases in nearly 90 countries since May. There have been 103 suspected deaths in Africa, mainly in Nigeria and Congo, where a form of monkeypox is spreading more deadly than in the West.

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Medical experts stress that this is not technically a sexually transmitted disease, although it is primarily sexually transmitted between gay and bisexual men, accounting for 98% of the time. cases outside of Africa. The virus can be spread to anyone who has close, physical contact with an infected person, their clothing, or bed sheets.

So part of the complexity of fighting smallpox in monkeys is striking a balance between not stigmatizing men who have sex with men, while also making sure that both the vaccine and calls for more caution to those currently in greatest danger.

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The Ministry of Health said that Spain has already distributed 5,000 doses of the two-shot vaccine to health facilities and expects to receive another 7,000 shots from the EU in the coming days.

To ensure that those shots are taken wisely, community groups and sexual health associations targeting gay, bisexual and transgender women are taking the lead.

In Barcelona, ​​BCN Checkpoint, which focuses on AIDS/HIV prevention in the gay and transgender community, is now reaching out to people at risk to offer them one of the vaccines. precious.

Pep Coll, medical director of BCN Checkpoint, said the vaccine rollout was focused on people already at risk of HIV infection and on pre-treatment, men with multiple sex partners and those involved in HIV. “chemsex” (sex with drug use), as well as those with a suppressed immune response.

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Click to play video: 'Health Issues: Staying Safe as Monkeypox Spreads'

Health issues: Stay safe as monkeypox spreads

Health issues: Stay safe as monkeypox spreads

But there are more people who fit those categories than dosages.

“If we just look at the number of people (on HIV prophylaxis) plus the number of people living with HIV, we are talking about 15,000 people (Barcelona only), Coll said.

Vaccine shortages are much more severe in Africa than in Europe and the US, experts say, making social public health policies important.

Like the coronavirus pandemic, contact tracing to identify people who may have been infected is critical. However, although COVID-19 can be spread to anyone simply through the air, close physical contact serves as the leading vehicle of monkeypox causing some hesitant to share information.

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“We are having a steady stream of new cases, and it is likely that we will have more deaths. Why? Because contact tracing is so complicated because it can be a very sensitive issue for someone to identify their sexual partners,” said Amos Garcia, epidemiologist and president of the Vaccine Association. Spain please tell.

Spain says most of its cases are in men who have sex with men and only 5% are women. But Garcia insists that won’t even happen unless the general public, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, understands that having multiple sex partners creates more risks.

“The same goes for AIDS/HIV, where there is a time when the group of men who have sex with men is most affected (before it spreads to other groups), and that can become the way that things go. This happens if we can’t send a strong message to society,” says Garcia.

Click to play video: 'Doctors fear upcoming events could cause monkeypox cases to spike'

Doctors fear upcoming events could cause a spike in smallpox cases in monkeys

Doctors fear upcoming events could cause a spike in smallpox cases in monkeys – July 26, 2022

Given the scarcity of vaccines and the trouble with contact tracing, there is even more pressure to encourage prevention.

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From the outset, government officials ceded the lead in publicity to community groups.

Sebastian Meyer, president of the STOP SIDA association dedicated to AIDS/HIV care in Barcelona’s LGBTQ community, said the logic is that his team and others want his team to be information carriers. Reliable message with one-on-one knowledge on how to promote home health.

While community associations representing gay and bisexual men have hit social media, websites and blogs with information about the safety of smallpox in monkeys, Meyer says there’s still plenty. work to do.

Meyer, who is on the monkeypox advisory board for both Spain’s national government and the regional government in Barcelona, ​​believes fatigue from the COVID-19 pandemic has played a part. Doctors recommend that people with monkeypox lesions stay isolated until they have completely healed, which can take up to three weeks.

“When people read that they have to self-isolate, they close the site and forget what they read,” Meyer said. “We were coming out of COVID, when you couldn’t do this or that, and now, we’re on… People just hate it and bury their heads in the sand.”

Meyer says his team is currently analyzing ways to improve and relaunch their messaging.

“If you haven’t been selected to get vaccinated, the answer is don’t despair that you will get vaccinated,” he said. “The answer is to be more careful. That’s much better than any vaccine.”

© 2022 Canadian Press

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