The coming days are crucial for the spread of monkeypox in Belgium: “Incubation period of the first cases is ending”

The coming days will be crucial for the number of confirmed cases of monkey pox in our country. The maximum incubation period of the first infected persons is almost coming to an end. “I expect even more positive cases, but in principle we can keep this under control in our society,” says virologist Marc Van Ranst.

The first cases of monkey pox in our country were linked to the Darklands fetish festival in Antwerp. Those first cases could all be traced back to the gay community, but that link will be lost after a while, says virologist Marc Van Ranst (KU Leuven). “When people have close contacts, that link with the gay community will fade. It is therefore not a homosexual disease. That first round of infections happened to happen in that community, but we’re going to see cases outside of it as well.”

ALSO READ. Doctors alert for monkey pox, but Darklands visitors are not worried: “Not as bad as corona”

The WHO reported two days ago that 250 cases of monkey pox have already been reported in 16 countries. According to the virologist, several hundred cases in Europe are the minimum scenario. There is no need to panic at all, he says. “It depends on how well the population recognizes those injuries. It starts with a fever, general tiredness and not feeling well. After that, vesicles appear that first fill with clear fluid, later with purulent fluid. In the final stage, they are scabs,” he says. But it is important that people already contact a doctor in those first phases.

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Longer incubation period

According to Van Ranst, the coming days will be crucial. “We are almost at the maximum incubation period (the period between the infection and the first complaints, ed.) after the end of Darklands. I expect even more positive cases, but in principle we can keep this under control in our society,” says the virologist. “It is therefore very different from, for example, Covid-19. With Covid you had an incubation period of 3 to 5 days. In monkey pox it is two to three weeks. So you will see much less rapid increases. It just goes much slower.”

The fact that there are already guidelines on isolation also helps, according to the virologist. It is recommended to remain in isolation until the lesions have dried and healed. This is usually after 21 days. “But also high-risk contacts, people who had very close contact or sex with the infected person, are best quarantined for 21 days.”


Together with the European Union, our country has ordered 1,250 doses of a vaccine against monkey pox. This allows 625 people to be vaccinated. “These are primarily intended for health workers who have been exposed to the virus. But also for high-risk contacts,” says Van Ranst. In all likelihood, group purchases of those vaccines will follow. But a large-scale vaccination campaign, such as with Covid-19, is not what Van Ranst is talking about.


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