‘It is currently mainly spreading through unprotected sex among gay men’
Who are the risk groups?
‘I think that especially gay men should make sure that they have protected sexual contact and that they are aware that the person with whom you have sexual contact does not have blisters. Anyone can get this, it’s not that gay men are more prone to it, but it’s currently spreading mainly through unprotected sex in this group. Outside that group, the risk is actually very small.’
Are students extra susceptible?
‘Students have varying contacts more often than married men and women, so in that sense the chance is greater. But at the moment, students who have homosexual contacts in particular are a high-risk group.’
How can it happen that the virus is ‘suddenly’ in Europe and America?
‘It is a virus that has been circulating in Africa for some time. It was discovered in monkeys in the 1950s, the first infection in humans was in the 1970s. Since then there have been regular outbreaks of monkeypox virus in Africa. These have led to export cases, smaller outbreaks such as in the United States in 2003.’
‘Now we see that there is a cluster within the population of men who have sex with men. This was the case with all seven infections in the Amsterdam UMC, with recent sexual contacts. So it seems that it is mainly spread through unprotected sexual contacts, including parties. The Darklands festival in Antwerp is a well-known one, and then things can go fast. The incubation period is relatively long, so it may well have been under the radar for a while and only just now showing up.’