Monkeypox / MPX?
Monkeypox (MPX) is a viral disease caused by the monkeypox virus (MPXV). The virus is related to the classical smallpox viruses (variola, smallpox). MPX has been a rare disease in Europe, probably transmitted mainly from rodents to humans. Human-to-human transmission occurs mainly in close contact.
How is monkeypox virus (MPXV) transmitted?
MPXV can be transmitted through close body contact (skin-to-skin), for example during sex. Crucial here are all situations in which the viruses from affected skin areas of a sick person come into contact with the skin and mucous membrane of another person. This can also be the case when kissing, caressing or cuddling. So far, however, sexual contacts seem to play the decisive role in transmission, but MPXV can also be transmitted by droplets from the respiratory air during prolonged direct contact or by contaminated objects (e.g. clothing, bedding and sex toys). Condoms do not provide sufficient protection against transmission. Decisive for transmission is direct contact with skin lesions (pimples, blisters, scabbed pustules, crusts).
Investigations by the Berlin health authorities have shown that at the beginning of the outbreak in Berlin, large events such as the GayPride Maspalomas in Gran Canaria, the Darklands Festival in Antwerp or the Snaxx party in Berlin may have played a role in the transmission. However, many cases also become infected outside of large events/parties. Overall, most cases become infected in Berlin and more than half have visited sex parties or clubs during the assumed infection period. However, about 20% of the Berlin cases have also been infected during stays outside Germany, where visits to clubs or festivals were also frequently reported.
What can I do myself to prevent infection with MPXV?
Close sexual contacts and direct skin contacts play the biggest role in transmission so far. Close skin contacts and sexual contacts with unknown persons, whose health status one cannot assess, carry a high risk of infection. Therefore, you can reduce your own risk of infection by reducing the number of sex partners whose health status you cannot assess. It is essential to avoid close contact with people who have skin lesions or a rash, or who have flu-like symptoms such as fever and chills. Since it is mainly contact with the affected skin areas that leads to transmission, even condoms do not provide sufficient protection.
Attending outdoor events and festivals does not increase the risk of MPXV infection, but close physical contact, including sex, increases the risk of infection. Watch for the above symptoms and seek medical attention early if you or a current partner experience any of the above symptoms.
What should I do if I notice symptoms on me?
If symptoms occur, seek medical attention early. It is best to talk to your doctor’s office in advance by phone before going there. If you do not have health insurance, sexual health centers are also available in some counties. Checkpoint BLN also offers medical advice and diagnostics. Cover skin lesions and wear a medical mask on the way there and at the facilities.
Close physical contact (skin contact, sexual contact) should be avoided at all costs until symptoms have been medically cleared. Do not attend parties, festivals, saunas, darkrooms or similar until your symptoms have been clearly clarified by a doctor. If you notice symptoms during a festival or club visit lasting several days, interrupt your visit there and seek medical help. Inform people with whom you have had close contact about your symptoms.