French health authorities are calling for ‘at-risk’ groups to vaccinate after cases of the disease rose 77% in a week
France is urging gay and bisexual men, trans people with multiple sex partners, sex workers, and other ‘at-risk’ groups to get vaccinated against monkeypox even if they don’t think they’ve been exposed, health authority HAS said in a statement on Friday, describing these as “The most vulnerable groups to the virus.”
The advice has been given in addition to pre-existing guidance suggesting that people get vaccinated if they’ve tested positive for monkeypox or believe a recent contact put them at risk.
France has reported 577 cases so far. 387 of these were in the Ile-de-France area (including Paris). Men who have sex with men accounted for a whopping 97% of cases where information on patients’ sex lives was available as of early July, while 75% of those had reported multiple sex partners in the weeks preceding their symptoms’ appearance.
“The spread of the virus and difficulties in tracing contacts are two of the challenges.” – thanks in part to a rise in anonymous sex during Pride Month festivities – the HAS concluded that preventatively vaccinating the groups most at risk of infection was the best way to curtail the spread.
Health workers caring for those with monkeypox should seek out the vaccine only on a “Case-by-case,” however, the agency suggested, claiming “Hygiene routines” and PPE “The risk of infection is very low.”
France isn’t the only country that has seen a significant increase in cases of monkeypox. According to the World Health Organization, cases of the virus have risen 77% worldwide in seven days. The agency confirmed 6 027 cases in 59 nations as of Monday. Most of those – 4,920 cases – are located in Europe, the first place where the disease emerged outside its native Africa earlier this year.
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While no one outside of Africa has died of the current strain of monkeypox – the chickenpox-like virus usually clears up within 30 days – the WHO earlier this month warned there was “There is no place for complacency” regarding the “Rapid-moving Viruses,” with European regional director Hans Kluge calling for a massive ramp-up in monkeypox surveillance by European nations and “Sound investments in public health” to fight infection.
He also blamed “stigma” for the disease’s spread, likening the public perception that it was a “Gay disease” to the initial public response to the HIV epidemic.