More and more cases of monkeypox are being registered in Germany. For now, however, there is still no cause for concern, confirms the Robert Koch Institute.
Berlin (AP) – More than 1,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported in Germany so far. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported a total of 1,054 transferred cases from all federal states in the online overview until Friday.
So far, only male cases have been forwarded to RKI, but there are several cases forwarded without specifying the gender, the spokeswoman said upon request. The institute’s risk assessment states: “According to current knowledge, the RKI assesses the risk to the health of the general population in Germany as low.” Experts closely observe the situation and classify the new dimension of the number of cases.
“Reaching this number is not worrisome,” said Timo Ulrichs, a global health expert at the Acre University of Human Sciences in Berlin. “It’s not nice and it should have been controlled much better from the very beginning,” but the situation is not at all comparable to the corona pandemic. The first cases of monkeypox in Germany became known about six weeks ago.
It is transmitted by physical contact
According to the current state of knowledge, the actually rare viral disease, of which several thousand cases have been detected worldwide, is mainly transmitted by close physical contact from person to person. According to the WHO, the majority of those affected are men who have sex with men. In general, however, anyone can become infected through close physical contact. Ulrichs stressed that stigmatization must be decisively opposed.
Since transmission is mostly sexual, the ways to control it are clear: “Good communication, safer sex and consistent monitoring of fairly short chains of infection,” says Ulrichs. By this, and perhaps by vaccination, the spread can be well contained, “so that in the near future the numbers will increase only slightly, and monkeypox will be a side note in the coming years”.
The RKI emphasizes that wearing a condom alone does not protect against infection. Infected people should avoid any type of close contact, including unprotected sex, with other people until the rash has cleared and the last scab has fallen off.
Distribution is not expected
Virologist Norbert Nowotny from the University of Vienna said regarding the worldwide infection process: This large number of infections in about 50 different countries outside the African endemic areas was not expected. He also emphasized that education and information must be intensified, and especially brought to the most vulnerable sections of the population.
Monkeypox is considered a less serious disease than smallpox, which has been eradicated since 1980. Experts warned of the spread of the virus, for example at upcoming festivals and parties. Symptoms (including fever and rash) usually go away on their own, but can lead to medical complications and, very rarely, death in some people.
The Standing Committee on Vaccination (Stiko) recommends vaccination for certain risk groups and persons who have been in close contact with infected persons.
Nowotny explained that since the causative virus belongs to a strain that causes fairly mild clinical courses, serious courses of the disease can rarely be expected – except in immunocompromised individuals, for whom a specific antiviral drug is available. Still, the goal must be to “stop the epidemic in the next few months,” the expert said.
The main problem is the relatively long incubation period of up to three weeks. Infected persons would therefore have to reliably inform authorities of very close contacts during that time. They would then have to impose the necessary quarantine measures and, under certain circumstances, begin vaccination against smallpox. But Nowotny’s forecast was also cautiously optimistic: If the funds were implemented immediately, it would probably be possible to limit and eventually stop the epidemic within the next few months.