Over 700 monkeypox cases diagnosed so far; Vaccinations begin Monday
The number of monkeypox infections diagnosed in the Netherlands has risen to 712. In the past week, 163 new cases emerged. That is the fastest increase since the virus surfaced in the Netherlands in April.
Most people who have contracted the virus are men who have sexual contact with other men. Because of how the infection has spread thus far, people at a higher risk of infection can be vaccinated against it as a precaution from Monday, Health Minister Ernst Kuipers announced on Thursday. In the regions of Amsterdam and The Hague, the first invitations will be sent on Thursday. That is where most infections have been found. In Amsterdam, about fifty people will receive their first vaccination on Monday. People are considered fully vaccinated after two shots.
In total, approximately 32,000 people in the Netherlands are eligible for the jab. It concerns men who engage in sexual activity with other men, and transgender people who are HIV positive or who take medicine to prevent them from contracting HIV. Compared to other groups, they run an increased risk of contracting monkeypox and, moreover, the group is fairly easy to approach, experts recently said in advise presented to Kuipers.
Other people can also contract the virus, Kuipers emphasized. So far, five women have tested positive, two more than in Monday's last update. Earlier, the RIVM also said that a primary school student had contracted the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is meeting on Thursday about the monkeypox outbreak. The virus may be declared an international public health hazard, the highest warning level. According to Kuipers, if the WHO decides that this will now apply to the monkeypox virus, it is "mainly a signal that the situation is worrying worldwide. This will have no direct consequences for policy in the Netherlands."
Those who contract monkeypox can suffer from fever, headache, muscle aches and general malaise. After a few days, a rash with blisters appears on the skin. People who tested positive for the virus in the Netherlands generally did not develope severe symptoms. One patient in the Netherlands has been in hospital to be treated for skin complaints associated with the infection. He recovered and returned home. Monkeypox is not a venereal disease, but mainly spreads through skin-to-skin contact. Anyone can contract the virus.
In Europe, the virus has been diagnosed in more than 10,000 people, almost exclusively men. Most are in their thirties and forties. More than 900 of them are HIV-positive.
Reporting by ANP