Mid-July, half past six in the morning. The metro is full, it's rush hour. In the midst of the fray a man, his body covered with smallpox. Doctor Arturo M. can't believe what he sees. Monkeypox wounds from head to toe, including hands. The doctor knows that the man is a walking source of infection. Because the virus is transmitted, among other things, through contact with these skin changes, in which the virus concentration is greatest. Nevertheless, neither the infected nor the other passengers seem to be interested. The doctor reacts. He later posted what happened next in a thread, including a picture of the man's smallpox-covered legs. The post went viral.
At the beginning of May, monkeypox made it to Europe. A first case in Great Britain was followed by outbreaks in Spain, Italy, Belgium. The virus has long since traveled the world. The World Health Organization is alarmed and declared a global health emergency in mid-July. Officially, there are around 19,000 known infections so far, Spain is currently the most affected. The first two deaths in Europe in connection with a monkeypox infection were also reported there. Nevertheless, the Spaniards seem to take the situation rather relaxed. At least that's what the young doctor's Twitter post suggests.
"I approached the gentleman cautiously and asked what he was doing in the subway if he had monkeypox," Arturo M. describes the scene on Twitter. Whereupon the man confirmed the infection. But he didn't know that he had to stay at home. His doctor only said that he had to wear a mask. Arturo M. then came out as a doctor, pointed out to him that the lesions were highly contagious and that he might not have understood all of his doctor's instructions correctly. But instead of insight, the 32-year-old received an insult. "Don't get on my nerves," the infected person is said to have said.
A lack of education appears to be a sticking point in dealing with the monkeypox outbreak. According to the doctor's description, not only did the infected person shine with ignorance, but also other passengers. "Aren't you afraid of getting sick?" the young doctor asked a woman who was sitting right next to the infected person. But she didn't really feel addressed that she wasn't gay. And finally someone from the government said that homosexuals have to take care of themselves. A statement that gave the doctor the rest. He ended his intervention.
The prejudice that monkeypox is a problem for men who have sex with other men persists. In fact, a study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 95 percent of monkeypox cases were sexually transmitted. And yes, mostly men are affected. However, the pathogen is not interested in the sexual orientation of its "victim". In principle, the disease can affect anyone. Study author John Thornhill also pointed out: "It is important to emphasize that monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease in the traditional sense; it can be transmitted through any kind of close physical contact." But droplet infection is also possible - on the one hand via the lesions mentioned, but also about clothing, bed linen, towels or objects such as cutlery that have been contaminated with the virus through contact with an infected person, writes the Robert Koch Institute.
Whether and if so, how many people the infected person could infect in the metro was a question that Arturo M. also asked in his post, but could only answer with "No idea". In any case, the young doctor had had enough after his two failures and stopped trying to avoid further infections, instead trying to protect himself above all. "Now I'm on the train and I try not to touch anything, let alone sit down."
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- The journey of the monkeypox virus: what we know about its origins. And why we all need to be careful