WHO urges gay men to get mpox vaccine as European cases rise

Tuesday, 27 June 2023 15:26 GMT

People queue up to receive monkeypox vaccinations during a pop-up clinic at Guy's Hospital in central London, Britain, July 30, 2022. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

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Cases of mpox - also known as monkeypox - are rising in Europe as people gather for summer events

By Hugo Greenhalgh

LONDON, June 27 (Openly) - Gay and bisexual men should get vaccinated against mpox - formerly known as monkeypox - as summer festivals risk a new rise in infections across Europe, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Tuesday.

Recent small clusters of cases have been recorded in the United States, Britain, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands, the health body said, after a global outbreak last year that primarily spread among men who have sex with men.

A summer resurgence is expected as people travel to festivals and LGBTQ+ Pride events, which generally take place in June and July, said Richard Pebody, the programme area manager for infectious hazards at WHO Europe.

"With the onset of festivals and events there are potential activities, particularly sexual activities ... that increase the risk of transmission," he told Openly.

"Then there is the potential to see clusters and outbreaks of mpox."

The WHO declared a global health emergency between July 2022 and May this year over the first outbreak of mpox in multiple countries outside of areas of West and Central Africa where it is endemic.

The viral disease spreads through direct contact with body fluids and causes flu-like symptoms and pus-filled skin lesions.

Since January 1 2022, almost 88,000 cases have been reported around the world, with 147 deaths, according to the latest WHO data. The United States, Brazil and Spain were worst affected.

Twenty-two new cases of mpox were recorded in Europe in the latest three weeks' data, representing a 214% increase, said the WHO.

"While this might seem low, it tells us that the virus continues to circulate in Europe particularly affecting men who have sex with men, and you can see a resurgence," Hans Henri P. Kluge, the WHO's regional director for Europe, told a press conference.

Mpox was discovered in 1958 and named after the first animal to show symptoms. The WHO in November said it would start using mpox to refer to the disease after receiving complaints that the name monkeypox was racist and stigmatising.

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(Reporting by Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh; editing by Sonia Elks. Please credit Openly, the LGBTQ+ news website from the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters. Visit https://www.openlynews.com)

Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.

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