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100+ confirmed cases of monkeypox in 12 countries & spreading

A notable proportion of cases in the UK and across Europe have been found in gay & bisexual men health officials say

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President Joe Biden talks to reporters on Monkeypox as he leaves South Korea (Screen capture via CNN)

Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, the Regional Director of Europe for the World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that confirmed cases of monkeypox, which is most often seen in West and Central Africa, has escalated in Europe and elsewhere globally.

The United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Sweden – as well as the U.S., Canada and Australia are all reporting cases.

“The situation is evolving and WHO expects there will be more cases of monkeypox identified as surveillance expands in non-endemic countries,”  Kluge said.

In Britain, the UK Health Security Agency’s Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Susan Hopkins noted in a statement released this past weekend:

“We anticipated that further cases would be detected through our active case finding with NHS services and heightened vigilance among healthcare professionals. We expect this increase to continue in the coming days and for more cases to be identified in the wider community. Alongside this we are receiving reports of further cases being identified in other countries globally. 

Because the virus spreads through close contact, we are urging everyone to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact National Health Service or a sexual health service if they have any concerns.  Please contact clinics ahead of your visit and avoid close contact with others until you have been seen by a clinician.

A notable proportion of recent cases in the UK and Europe have been found in gay and bisexual men so we are particularly encouraging them to be alert to the symptoms and seek help if concerned.

Clinicians should be alert to any individual presenting with unusual rashes without a clear alternative diagnosis and should contact specialist services for advice,” she added.

Monkeypox, which can be transmitted by droplets and by close contact with infected skin lesions or contaminated materials, usually incubates in people for 6 to 13 days before symptoms appear.

UKHSA notes that this rare virus, in the same family as smallpox, has not previously been described as a sexually transmitted infection, but it it can be passed on through very close human contact, such as touching blood or body fluids or prolonged exposure to the respiratory droplets of an infected person. It can also been transmitted with clothing or linens used by an infected person.

In Washington D.C., Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator, told ABC he wouldn’t be surprised if the US saw “a few more” cases of monkeypox in the coming days.

“But I feel like this is a virus we understand, we have vaccines against it, we have treatments against it, and it’s spread very differently than SARS-CoV-2” — the virus that causes Covid-19, Jha told ABC’s Martha Raddatz on Sunday.

Traveling in Asia, President Joe Biden told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins as he was preparing board Air Force One to depart South Korea on Sunday; “They haven’t told me the level of exposure yet, but it is something that everybody should be concerned about,” he said.

“We’re working on it hard to figure out what we do and what vaccine, if any, might be available for it. It is a concern in that if it were to spread it would be consequential. That’s all they told me,” the president added.

CNN reported that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is evaluating whether a smallpox vaccine should be offered to health care workers treating monkeypox patients and other people who may be at “high risk” for exposure to monkeypox.

UK Health Security Agency’s Hopkins cautions that people should be aware of monkeypox — but that the risk to the general population “remains extremely low at the moment.”

“I think people need to be alert to it,” said Hopkins. “We really want clinicians to be alert to it and send the test if they’re concerned.”

Hopkins also said based on reports from Africa, the UKHSA knows certain people are “much more at risk of severe disease, particularly immunosuppressed individuals or young children.

“While there is “no direct vaccine for monkeypox,” she said, “we are using a form of smallpox vaccine or third-generation smallpox vaccine that’s safe on individuals who are contacts of cases.”

Symptoms

Initial symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion. A rash can develop, often beginning on the face, then spreading to other parts of the body including the genitals.

The rash changes and goes through different stages, and can look like chickenpox or syphilis, before finally forming a scab, which later falls off.

“A feature that distinguishes infection with monkeypox from that of smallpox is the development of swollen lymph nodes,” the CDC said.

Biden Comments On Monkeypox As He Leaves South Korea:

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European Union

EU threatens to withhold funds over LGBTQ ‘free zones’ in Poland

Poland has seen a resurgence in the past three years of rightwing religious ultra-conservative groups in this heavily Catholic country

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Strefa WOLNA (LGBT 'Free Zone') sticker distributed on anti-LGBTQ+ Polish Facebook pages

BRUSSELS – The executive branch of the European Union, the European Commission, sent letters out last week to the governors of five of Poland’s voivodeships, (provinces) warning that pandemic relief funds totaling over 126 million euros ($150 million) will be withheld over anti-LGBTQ measures passed in their jurisdictions.

The EU Commission, which is chiefly responsible for for proposing legislation, enforcing EU laws and directing EU administrative operations, notified the governors and the government of Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki that the coronavirus response investment initiative (CRII) funds from the Recovery assistance for cohesion and the territories of Europe (REACT-EU), would be rescinded over the so-called ‘LGBTQ Free Zones’ established in the five provinces.

Poland has seen a resurgence in the past three years of rightwing religious ultra-conservative groups backed by nationalistic extremists in this heavily Catholic country of 38 million, which have led to passage of measures to restrict pride parades and other LGBTQ+-friendly events from taking place.

Proponents of these measures claim the necessity of the provinces to be “free of LGBTQ ideology” saying this is mandated by average Poles as well as by the anti-LGBTQ+ views of the Catholic Church.

Last month, two separate LGBTQ Equality marches known as marsze równości were held Saturday under a heavy police presence in the southern city of Częstochowa and the Baltic seaside port city of Gdańsk.

Polish media outlet RMF24 reported no major incidents or violence at either march, unlike previous year’s marches where clashes with anti-LGBTQ+ Polish nationalist, far right conservative and catholic protesters had disrupted the marches and there were injuries inflicted. The local governments had increased their police presence to forestall incidents which would have led to violent counter protests.

The 26-year-old head of a regional far-right youth organization in Opole, southwestern Poland, Bartlomiej Czuchnowski, who had traveled to the Częstochowa march to protest told the Associated Press; “This is a clear provocation, because LGBT circles have always been anti-Catholic, anti-Christian, you can even say. So their march in this direction, into the heart of the Polish nation, into the heart of Polish Catholicism, is an open provocation.”

Although several Polish courts have weighed in ruling the measures unconstitutional, little actions have been taken to mitigate them.

In July of 2020, the anti-LGBTQ president of Poland, Andrzej Duda, won re-election. Activists have sharply criticized Duda — head of Poland’s conservative Law and Justice party — over his anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.

Duda in June of last year said LGBTQ “ideology” is more harmful than communism.

Justyna Nakielska of Kampania Przeciw Homofobii, a Polish LGBTQ advocacy group, told the Blade’s International Editor Michael Lavers that Duda has publicly described LGBTQ Poles as “a threat to the family” and said they “want to sexualize children.”

This past June, the leaders of 17 European Union countries had signed a letter that urges the EU to fight anti-LGBTQ discrimination. The EU has also called out the anti-LGBTQ measures taken more recently in Hungry.

ILGA-Europe, a Brussels based advocacy group promoting the interests of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people, at the European level, in a statement it sent to the Blade in June after the EU letter was issued, notes that both Hungary and Poland, another EU country in which lawmakers have sought to restrict LGBTQ rights in recent years are at odds with the EU position on LGBTQ+ people.

“For quite some time now, we’ve been informing EU ministers about systematic breaches of EU law committed by Hungary and Poland, which impact on LGBTI rights and the lives of LGBTI people,” says ILGA-Europe.

“This week’s developments seem to suggest that the European Commission and a number of member states finally heard that call. Time to keep up the action and follow through on its values and responsibilities as guardians of EU law, keeping the important commitments made this week.”

The EU Commission and the government of Poland did not respond to requests for comment.

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