WHO says European festivals should go ahead despite monkeypox risk

Most new cases of monkeypox are currently detected in Western Europe. The World Health Organisation says this is no reason to cancel more than 800 festivals scheduled to take place on the continent this summer.

The World Health Organisation has said monkeypox should not prevent European music festivals from taking place.
The World Health Organisation has said monkeypox should not prevent European music festivals from taking place. (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP)

The World Health Organization said Friday that European summer festivals should not be cancelled due to the monkeypox outbreak but should instead manage the risk of amplifying the virus.

A surge of monkeypox cases has been detected since May outside of the West and Central African countries where the disease has long been endemic.

Most of the new cases have been in Western Europe.

More than 3,200 confirmed cases and one death have now been reported to the WHO from 48 countries in total this year.

“We have all the summer festivals, concerts and many other events just starting in the northern hemisphere,” Amaia Artazcoz, the WHO’s mass gatherings technical officer, told a webinar entitled “Monkeypox outbreak and mass gatherings: Protecting yourself at festivals and parties”.

The events “may represent a conducive environment for transmission”, she said.

“These gatherings have really close proximity and usually for a prolonged period of time, and also a lot of frequent interactions among people,” Artazcoz explained.

“Nevertheless… we are not recommending postponing or cancelling any of the events in the areas where monkeypox cases have been identified.”

Sarah Tyler, the senior communications consultant on health emergencies at WHO Europe, said there were going to be more than 800 festivals in the region, bringing together hundreds of thousands of people from different countries.

“Most attendees are highly mobile and sexually active and a number of them will have intimate skin-to-skin contact at or around these events,” she said.

“Some may also have multiple sexual contacts, including new or anonymous partners. Without action, we risk seeing a surge in monkeypox cases in Europe this summer.”

Risk awareness

The UN health agency recommends that countries identify events most likely to be associated with the risk of monkeypox transmission.

The WHO urged festival organisers to raise awareness through effective communication, detect cases early, stop transmission and protect people at risk.

The outbreak in newly-affected countries is primarily among men who have sex with men, and who have reported recent sex with new or multiple partners, according to the WHO.

People with symptoms are advised to avoid attending gatherings, while people in communities among whom monkeypox has been found to occur more frequently than in the general population should exercise particular caution, it says.

The normal initial symptoms of monkeypox include a high fever, swollen lymph nodes and a blistery chickenpox-like rash.

Meg Doherty, from the global HIV, hepatitis and sexually-transmitted infection programmes at WHO, said: “We are not calling this a sexually-transmitted infection.

“Stigmatising never helps in a disease outbreak,” she added.

“This is not a gay disease. However, we want people to be aware of what the risks are.”

Member comments

  1. Why would they even consider stopping festivals because of Apepox which affects a tiny minority of the population and is not that long term dangerous anyway?

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How to find mental health resources in Germany for children

As mental illnesses and behavioural disorders among children and teenagers continue to rise, it can be difficult for international parents in Germany to know where to find resources.

How to find mental health resources in Germany for children

Whether it’s school stress, adjusting to a move abroad, low self esteem, a personal crisis, hormonal changes or family issues, there are plenty of things that may make it hard for young people to cope with everyday life. 

A survey screening child anxiety disorders, found children in Germany ages 11 to 17 with symptoms of anxiety more than doubled over the course of the pandemic from under 15 percent before the pandemic to nearly a third of children surveyed exhibiting symptoms in January 2021. 

And social media has only added to the problem. According to a recent DAK study, media addiction among children and young people in Germany has nearly tripled from numbers before the pandemic. 

Girls and boys with heavy social media use reported more depressive symptoms, anxiety and a higher level of stress than children with less media usage. The parents of the affected children and young people also reported more dissatisfaction with communication within the families.

While Germany has a large capacity to care for mental healthcare patients, it can still be tough to find resources for children, especially if there’s a language barrier. Here’s a guide to finding mental healthcare for children and youth in Germany:

Is mental health care covered by insurance in Germany?

Yes, Germany’s state health care system covers mental healthcare. Statutory health insurance currently covers nearly 90 percent of the population. This insurance gives residents access to consultation with a psychiatrist, therapy, in- and outpatient care, emergency mental health services and medication

READ ALSO: How to receive help for a mental health issue in Germany 

Where should you start?

Parents should start by reaching out to their children’s paediatrician or family doctor. After explaining how your child is doing, they will likely refer you to a child psychiatrist to further evaluate treatment options. Treatment can include prescribing mediation, talking therapy, or a combination of both. You can also directly set up a consultation with a mental health professional for your child.

Insurance type, public or private, can also impact the type and availability of services. Public insurance covers fewer practitioners, meaning you may have to cover the cost of therapy for your child upfront and wait to be reimbursed.  

Whether you have public or private insurance can impact the type and availability of services. Public insurance covers outpatient psychotherapy, but patients must meet specific requirements for coverage. Doctors can also write a letter that parents can submit to their health insurance to access up to six therapy sessions, with the possibility of extension

Families using public insurance may also have longer wait times. Nearly half of all patients must wait three to nine months before receiving care, according to Germany’s Federal Chamber of Psychotherapy

A school girl at a Leipzig school. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hendrik Schmidt

This problem is worsened because public insurance does not cover all mental health professionals. Practitioners must have a ‘Kassensitz’ licence to bill public health insurance. These licences are regulated by the government and are limited. The cost of this licence, along with the waiting time for it, is often a deterrent to some practitioners. 

Another option could be to talk to your child’s school. Some schools employ social workers and psychologists who can screen and provide resources to children. These professionals can screen young people who exhibit symptoms of mental and emotional distress or hyperactivity in the classroom. They can also refer you to additional resources for more specialised treatment. 

What mental health resources are available?

As of 2022 there were more than 55,000 child and adolescent psychologists working across the country, according to data from the German society for psychiatry and psychotherapy, psychosomatics and neurology (DGPPN). The majority of these health professionals work in outpatient facilities, and the remaining 15 percent work in inpatient or day-care facilities. 

Germany has 274 mental health hospitals, 401 psychiatric units across general hospitals and 63 mental health outpatient facilities, according to the UN’s 2020 Mental Health Atlas. The country also started granting more specialist titles, including in child and adolescent psychiatry, in 2022.

Germany has also launched a helpline called “Nummer gegen Kummer” (number against grief) to support children facing mental health issues, whether it’s to do with getting bad grades or dealing with unrequited love.

READ ALSO: ‘Being honest helps’: How expats have overcome loneliness

The free help line – which is accessed by calling 116 111 – is active Monday to Saturday from 2pm to 8pm daily. Children can anonymously speak with volunteer consultants who range from the elderly to students ages 16 to 21. It is important to note that this resource is intended for children comfortable speaking German at an elementary level.

Other resources to consider include:

  • Online directory Therapy Route features English-speaking psychologists and social workers across Germany
  • It’s Complicated connects users to in-person or virtual therapeutic care based on your language and insurance type
  • Online directory lists around 600 English-speaking therapists currently working in Berlin, 150 in Frankfurt, around 230 in Hamburg, and 240 in Munich