Two possible samples of monkeypox undergo nucleic acid extraction as they are tested in the microbiology lab at La Paz Hospital in Madrid, Spain on June 1, 2022.
SPAIN’S BARCELONA — Roc was relieved to be one of the first Spaniards to receive a monkeypox vaccine because he worked as a sex worker and adult film actor. He was concerned that he might be the next case because he was aware of multiple cases among guys who have sex with men, the main demographic for the illness.
The 29-year-old told The Associated Press, “I went home and thought, ‘Phew, my God, I’m saved.’ However, it was too late. His professional alias, Roc, had recently been infected by a customer. He added to the continuously rising number of monkeypox infections in Spain, which has reached its highest level in Europe since the illness left Africa, where it had long been common.
He started to exhibit symptoms including pustules, fever, conjunctivitis, and fatigue. Prior to being healthy enough to be freed, Roc received medical attention in a hospital.
Health officials and neighborhood organizations in Spain are battling an outbreak that has claimed the lives of two young men. According to reports, they passed away from encephalitis, a viral illness that can result in brain swelling. Most cases of monkeypox only result in minor symptoms.
In the three months since the outbreak began, Spain has confirmed 4,942 cases. The outbreak has been connected to two raves in Europe, where experts believe the virus was most likely spread through sex. Only the considerably bigger United States, which had 7,100 cases documented, has more infections than Spain.
More than 26,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported worldwide since May in nearly 90 different countries. In Africa, primarily in Nigeria and the Congo, where a more deadly variant of monkeypox is spreading than in the West, there have been 103 suspected deaths.
Health professionals emphasise that although it has been mostly spreading through sex among gay and bisexual males, who account for 98 percent of cases outside of Africa, this is not officially a sexually transmitted disease.
Anyone who comes into close physical touch with an infected individual, their clothing, or their bed linens runs the risk of contracting the virus.
Finding a balance between not stigmatizing men who have sex with males and making sure that both vaccines and cries for increased caution reach those who are currently in the most danger is part of the difficulty of fighting monkeypox.
Spanish health centers have received 5,000 injections of the two-shot vaccination, and the country anticipates receiving 7,000 more from the EU in the next few days, according to the health ministry. In accordance with member states’ needs, the EU has purchased 160,000 dosages and is distributing them. The bloc anticipates receiving an additional 70,000 shots the following week.
To guarantee that those doses get provided correctly, community groups and sexual health associations are addressing gay males, bisexuals and transgender women.
BCN Checkpoint, a group focused on AIDS/HIV prevention in the homosexual and trans communities in Barcelona is currently reaching out to at-risk individuals to offer them one of the rare vaccines.
Pep Coll, medical director of BCN Checkpoint, said the vaccine rollout is focused on people who are already at risk of contracting HIV and are on preemptive treatment, men with a high number of sexual partners and those who participate in sex with the use of drugs, as well as people with suppressed immune responses.
But there are many more people who fit those categories than doses, about 15,000 people just in Barcelona, Coll said.
The lack of vaccines, which is far more severe in Africa than in Europe and the U.S., makes social public health policies key, experts say.
The vaccine rollout is concentrated on those who are already at risk of contracting HIV and are receiving preemptive treatment, men who have a lot of sexual partners, people who engage in sex while using drugs, and those with suppressed immune responses, according to Pep Coll, medical director of BCN Checkpoint.
But there are far more individuals than dosages who fall within those categories; Coll estimated that there are 15,000 of them in Barcelona alone. Social public health policies are crucial since vaccine shortages are more severer in Africa than in Europe and the United States, according to researchers.
Contact Tracking is more Challenging
Similar to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s crucial to do contact tracing to find everybody who might have been exposed. While COVID-19 can spread to anyone just by breathing, the primary method of transmission for monkeypox is close physical contact, which makes some people reluctant to share information.
“We are constantly receiving fresh cases, and it’s probable that we will experience more fatalities. Why? Because contact tracing is extremely difficult and identifying one’s sexual partners can be a very delicate matter, “the president of the Spanish Association of Vaccinology and epidemiologist Amós Garcia.
According to Spain, only 1.5% of incidents involve women, while 80% of cases involve males who have sex with men. Garcia, however, was adamant that nothing would change until everyone in society, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, understood that having multiple sexual partners increases the danger.
More emphasis is being placed on promoting prevention because there aren’t many vaccines available and contact tracing is difficult.
Government representatives handed over control of the get-the-word-out effort to community organizations from the beginning.
The reasoning, according to Sebastian Meyer, president of the STOP SIDA organization, was that his organization and others like it would be trusted message-bearers with first-hand experience of how to effectively convey the health warning to the LGBTQ population in Barcelona.
Gay and bisexual men’s advocacy groups have flooded social media, websites, and blogs with information about monkeypox safety. Authorities in Catalonia, which includes Barcelona and has over 1,500 cases, are promoting PSAs on the dating apps Grindr and Tinder warning of the illness.
Meyer, however, thinks that the COVID-19 pandemic’s weariness has contributed. It might take up to three weeks for monkeypox lesions to fully heal, thus doctors encourage patients to isolate themselves during that time.
“Meyer said. We recently exited COVID, during which you were prohibited from doing this or that, and now we’re back at it. Simply said, people despise it and bury their heads in the sand.