Wednesday 10 August 2022

RIVM voices concern over monkeypox virus spread at Pride events

The monkeypox virus. Photo: Depositphotos.com

Public health institute RIVM is warning that upcoming Pride events in Amsterdam and other Dutch cities could lead to a ‘more intensive spread’ of the monkeypox virus within the Netherlands, where the public health institute says there are now 257 confirmed cases.

Since May, the virus has been spreading in the Netherlands, and the number of cases is rising and expected to continue to do so. The RIVM says a ‘significant percentage’ of those who test positive involve cases of men who have sex with men (MSM).

According to a letter by the RIVM’s council of experts that was sent to parliament last week, ‘with multiple MSM events (such as prides) planned in the coming months, there is a chance of more intensive dissemination than is already the case…’

‘It has to do with the behaviour of people at these events,’ says RIVM press officer Harald Wychgel. ‘Men having sex with men is a transmission group. So, more of them means more risk of spread.’

The World Health Organisation says the virus, more typically found in the tropical rainforests of central and west Africa, is spread through close contact with an infected animal or person, passed through bodily fluids, lesions, respiratory droplets and even contaminated materials like bedding.

Stigmatisation

‘You have to be careful not to stigmatise by addressing a very general group about this,’ a spokesman for Pride Amsterdam told newspaper Het Parool. The ‘RIVM talks about men who have sex with men, but the Pride community is much broader than that…. You don’t go to Pride for changing contacts, but to express yourself for equal rights and to be who you want.’

Soa Aids Nederland is calling on health minister Ernst Kuipers to vaccinate gay men to help stop the spread of the virus, which can be transmitted to anyone. He is expected to comment on that in the coming weeks, pending advice from his medical experts.

Kuipers has already said people don’t have to quarantine if they’ve had passing contact with an infected person unless they develop symptoms, as it’s mainly spread through ‘intense physical contact.’

Signs

Symptoms of the usually non-lethal virus include fever, rashes, headaches, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes. Although it resembles smallpox, monkeypox is less contagious and less likely to cause severe illness.

The smallpox vaccine is not effective against monkeypox, but the RIVM says a newer version can be used in the first few days after possible exposure and also preventively to protect higher-risk groups from infection.

Pride Amsterdam kicks off on 30 July and runs through 7 August. Other summer Pride events include Roze Woensdag in Nijmegen, Roze Maandag in Tilburg, Pride Amersfoort and the Milkshake Festival in Amsterdam.

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