After the first cases of monkeypox in Germany, further containment measures are being prepared, according to Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach. Recommendations on isolation and quarantine are currently being developed with the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), said the SPD politician on Monday on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly in Geneva. He assumes that they could already be presented this Tuesday.
In addition, it is being considered “whether we might have to make vaccination recommendations for people who are particularly at risk,” explained the minister. This has not yet been clarified. This also includes checking whether vaccines may need to be procured, and if so, where. He has already contacted a manufacturer who makes vaccines specifically for monkeypox. Lauterbach emphasized that vaccination of the general population is not under discussion here.
He advocated firm international containment. The global outbreak is so unusual that there is concern about whether it will be like previous monkeypox outbreaks. It is more likely that the way of spreading could have changed, “so that we now have to react quickly and hard to contain a global outbreak again”.
Lauterbach explained that according to previous knowledge, it was primarily men who had had sexual contact with men who were infected. It is now important to address the risk groups honestly. This is for their protection and should not be misunderstood as stigmatization. The minister appealed to all those who have had anonymous sex with men to look out for skin changes and fever and to seek medical treatment very quickly if they suspect it.
More monkeypox cases in Germany
In the meantime, a first case of monkeypox has also been detected in Saxony-Anhalt. A man from Jerichower Land was affected, the Ministry of Social Affairs announced on Monday. After a trip, the man complained about complaints that the infection had been detected by a PCR test. The responsible health department ordered domestic isolation.
In the course of increased attention to the disease, cases of monkeypox, which actually occurs rarely, are being detected in more and more countries. The first case in Germany was reported from Bavaria, and there have now also been reports from Berlin and Baden-Württemberg. Samples from numerous other people are being analyzed, and authorities are also looking for contact persons who have been proven to be infected.
WHO: “This is not a gay disease”
The World Health Organization (WHO) sees important questions regarding the spread of monkeypox as yet unresolved. It is still unclear whether the virus, which has been known for more than 40 years, has changed, WHO experts said on Monday in Geneva. However, the nature of the virus currently speaks against it.
“They tend to be very stable,” said WHO expert Rosamund Lewis. She pointed out that the vaccination against smallpox, which was used to eradicate this disease decades ago, also helps against monkeypox by 85 percent. The vaccine has also been further developed since then. The problem is that it is not available in large quantities. It will therefore be a question of which groups of people need such protection, it said.
The WHO opposed the stigmatization of certain population groups. “This is not a gay disease,” said WHO expert Andy Seale. Sexual contact is one possibility of transmission, but skin contact is also sufficient. While in the past the spread of monkeypox by travelers was very limited, this time a different pattern can be seen.
It is important that the international community intensifies the monitoring of cases. So far, fewer than 200 cases, often with less severe courses, have been recorded worldwide, said WHO expert Maria Van Kerkhove. “This is a manageable situation.” However, increasing numbers are to be expected. (dpa)