Current situation – Monkeypox is sexually transmitted – but not limited to – knowledge


Cases of monkeypox are on the rise outside of Africa, currently mainly among gay men. The Swiss are also affected.

Fever, swollen lymph nodes, blisters that resemble chickenpox – or the early stages of syphilis. Dominique Braun, an infectious disease specialist at the University Hospital of Zurich, has already treated several patients who were infected with the monkeypox virus during his consultation hours. “These skin lesions can be anywhere on the body,” he says, “typically in current cases they are in the genital area.” With a swab on the blisters, an infection can be diagnosed within hours.

Slight increase in Switzerland

More than 3,000 people outside of Africa have been infected with monkeypox. According to the Federal Office of Public Health FOPH, 46 cases have been confirmed in Switzerland.

WHO meeting – “Health emergency”?

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Since the beginning of May, cases of so-called monkeypox have appeared in many Western countries. The virus is normally found only in Central and West Africa, but is now spreading to other countries as well.

An emergency committee of the World Health Organization is meeting today, Thursday, to ask whether the current spread of monkeypox in non-endemic countries is a “public health emergency of international concern.”

WHO also wants to rename the virus. The current designation is discriminatory and does not comply with WHO guidelines. According to this, pathogens cannot carry either animals or geographical names.

The hub of the health authorities is the so-called “MSM community” – men having sex with men. The recent monkeypox outbreak affects only this group, reports the World Health Organization (WHO). The trend is increasing, including in Switzerland.

“Yes, we have seen a slight increase in the past few days,” says Benjamin Hampel, infectious disease specialist and medical director of Checkpoint Zurich. This is the largest sexual health point of contact for gay and trans men in Switzerland.

“The cases we’ve seen so far have been relatively mild, meaning no one has had to be hospitalized and no one has been disfigured by severe rashes.”

But he has also heard of difficult paths, says Benjamin Hampel. And from a social point of view, the disease is not entirely harmless. Patients need to isolate themselves for two to three weeks or longer. This means: “Many of those affected are afraid of coming out.” It could be problematic if, for example, a conservative employer learns that the monkeypox virus has mainly affected gay men.

It can also be transmitted through close physical contact

However, it is questionable whether infections will remain limited to this group: “The virus does not adhere to sexual orientation,” says Dominique Braun of the University Hospital of Zurich, “which means that it is quite conceivable that the virus is transmitted to other groups. if adequate exposure has occurred. “

Checkpoint manager Benjamin Hampel adds: “Monkeypox is not only transmitted sexually, but also through close physical contact.” The virus has ideal conditions to spread further during Pride festivals, concerts and other summer holidays. It’s just bad luck, according to Hampel, “because otherwise the monkeypox virus is very difficult to transmit.”

The recommendation for vaccination should come

The good news is: unlike Corona, you can only infect others with monkeypox if you have symptoms yourself. There is also a vaccine that provides 85% protection against infections. In other countries, such as Germany, this vaccine is already recommended to the MSM community.

In Switzerland, the Federal Vaccination Commission EKIF is expected to soon follow suit with a vaccination recommendation. This is part of a strategy of measures that the FOPH is developing.

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