Warning against stigma: 190 cases of monkeypox confirmed in Europe

Cases of monkeypox have been reported in 19 countries outside of Africa.

Warning against stigma: 190 cases of monkeypox confirmed in Europe

Cases of monkeypox have been reported in 19 countries outside of Africa. Young men who have sex with men are particularly affected by the rare disease. However, Minister of Health Lauterbach warns against stigmatizing homosexual men: "It can affect anyone."

According to EU health authorities, more than 200 cases of monkeypox have now been confirmed outside of Africa. A total of 19 countries that do not normally have the disease have confirmed at least one case, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said. "Most of the cases are young men who self-identify as men who have sex with men. There have been no deaths," added the Stockholm-based European agency.

Outside of the 11 African countries where this rare disease is endemic, most confirmed cases are currently concentrated in three countries: the UK (71 cases), Spain (51) and Portugal (37). A total of 191 cases were confirmed in Europe, plus 15 in Canada, 9 in the US, 2 in Australia, one each in Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Suspected cases were not counted in the balance sheet.

On Monday, in its first risk assessment, the ECDC classified the probability of infection in the general population as "very low", but as "high" in people with multiple sexual partners. The World Health Organization (WHO) had shown optimism that it would be able to stop the spread of the disease. Monkeypox is a less dangerous cousin of smallpox, which was eradicated about 40 years ago. The disease begins with a high fever and quickly progresses to a crusting rash.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach and the Federal Government's Queer Commissioner, Sven Lehmann, have warned against stigmatizing gay men in connection with monkeypox. It must be prevented "that people who are homosexual and have sex with men are stigmatized," said Lauterbach on the ZDF program "Markus Lanz". "It's just important to say: It can happen to anyone." The Green politician Lehmann told the newspapers of the Funke media group that it was a fallacy "that gay or bisexual men are more at risk. The virus knows no sexual orientation". "Fear-mongering and stigmatization" must be avoided at all costs.

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), monkeypox is transmitted from person to person through close physical contact. Cases have so far been diagnosed particularly in men who have same-sex sex. Lauterbach also pointed this out on Tuesday: "The main risk group at the moment are men who have had sex with other men. And you have to be able to address that in order to protect this group."

Increased sensitivity to the transmission of monkeypox is important, Lehmann said. This also includes "target group-specific addressing of men who have sex with men". However, he added that increased vigilance for symptoms must apply to all people. "Many gay men are reminded of the beginning of the AIDS crisis, when the infection was attributed exclusively to gay men. As a result, gay men were stigmatized and other groups were given little protection."