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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Austria approves changes to the mandatory ‘family passport’ Mutter-Kind-Pass

Pregnant people in Austria receive a 'Mutter-Kind-Pass', a document that will store all the medical information about their pregnancy and their child and is mandatory to receive certain social benefits. Here's what's changing.

Austria approves changes to the mandatory 'family passport' Mutter-Kind-Pass

The Council of Ministers has approved the reform of the mother-child passport (Mutter-Kind-Pass), which was initially introduced in 1974 in Austria.

Starting in January 2024, the preventive care program will be renamed the Eltern-Kind-Pass (Parent-Child Pass). Over the course of the next few years, until 2026, the range of services provided will be expanded to include additional offerings for pregnant women and newborns. Furthermore, a digital version of the pass will be introduced.

The Parents-Child Pass Act is expected to be passed by the National Council in June, the Health Ministry stated in a press release.

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New benefits for families

The reformed parent-child pass will offer new benefits, such as an early health consultation during pregnancy, an optional second consultation with a midwife before childbirth, and parenting advice. Additional screenings for newborns, including hearing tests and ultrasounds, as well as additional laboratory tests and nutrition and health counselling for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and new parents, will also be available.

Johannes Rauch, the Health Minister from the Green Party, praised the parent-child pass as a successful model. He emphasised that the screening examinations would aid in the early detection and timely treatment of medically relevant abnormalities, thus preventing numerous deaths. Furthermore, Rauch highlighted the significance of these benefits for those without access to such examinations otherwise.

Susanne Raab, the Family Minister from the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), highlighted the addition of a new parenting advice service as part of the preventive measures. “We can offer parents and especially women information for decisions when it comes to sharing as partners and increase the participation of fathers”, she said.

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The digitisation of the screening program will significantly improve the documentation of examination results. This will enable the seamless transfer of findings between attending physicians and midwives through the Electronic Health Record (ELGA), according to the Ministry.

Overall, the government said these reforms aim to enhance the parent-child pass program, offering expanded services, improved documentation, and increased access to information and support for parents and their children.

What is the Mutter-Kind-Pass?

The Mutter-Kind-Pass is a small, yellow passport-style document that plays a vital role in providing and monitoring healthcare for pregnant women and young children in Austria.

Once a doctor confirms a pregnancy, the Mutter-Kind-Pass is issued to the expectant mother. It serves as a comprehensive record of medical examinations throughout the pregnancy and includes health check-ups for the child up to the age of five.

READ ALSO: Ten things you will notice as a parent with a child at school in Austria

The primary purpose of the Mutter-Kind-Pass is to ensure that pregnant women and children receive the necessary medical care they require. Furthermore, it is an essential document for receiving maternity pay in Austria, as the expected delivery date is recorded within it.

Furthermore, presenting proof of examinations recorded in the Mutter-Kind-Pass is essential for receiving the full entitlement to childcare allowance (Kinderbetreuungsgeld). Therefore, carrying the pass to all maternity-related appointments is recommended, as advised by the Österreichische Gesundheitskasse.