As a sex worker and adult film actor, Roc found peace when he was among the first Spaniards to receive the smallpox vaccine. He knows of many cases among men who have sex with men, which is the population leader for the disease, and he fears he could be next.
“I went home and thought, ‘Phew, my God, I’m saved,'” said the 29-year-old.
But it was already too late. Roc, the name he uses for work, was recently infected by a client. He joined the ranks of Spain, which continues to have an increase in the number of people infected with meningitis, which has become the highest in Europe since the disease spread beyond Africa, where it has been suffering for years.
He started showing symptoms: pustules, fever, eye pain and fatigue. Roc was admitted to the hospital for treatment before he recovered and was discharged.
Spanish health authorities and community organizations are struggling to find the outbreak of the disease that has already claimed the lives of two young people. They were reported to have died from encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, which can be caused by certain viruses. Most infections with meningitis cause mild symptoms.
Spain has had 4,577 confirmed cases in the three months since the start of the outbreak, which is linked to two outbreaks in Europe, where experts say the virus may have originated. sexually transmitted.
The only country with more cases than Spain is the United States, which has reported 7,100 cases.
In total, the global measles outbreak has killed more than 26,000 people in nearly 90 countries since May. There have been 103 suspected deaths in Africa, mostly in Nigeria and Congo, where monkeypox is more prevalent than in Western countries.
Health experts stress that this is not true sexually transmitted diseases, although it is more sexually transmitted among homosexuals and bisexuals, who have 98% of cases than in Africa. The virus can be spread to anyone who is in close contact, physical contact with the infected person, their clothes or bed sheets.
So part of the fight against meningococcal disease is striking a balance between not being against men who have sex with men while also making sure that both vaccinations and calls for caution reach those at greatest risk. at present.
To make sure those shots are handled wisely, community groups and sexual health groups that target gay men, lesbians and bisexuals are at the forefront.
In Barcelona, BCN Checkpoint, which focuses on AIDS/HIV prevention in the gay and trans communities, is now contacting people at risk to give them one of the precious vaccines.
Pep Coll, medical director of BCN Checkpoint, said the prevention program focuses on people who are already at risk of HIV infection and are on preventive treatment, men who have many sexual partners and those who enter in “chemsex” (sex with sex). drug use), and people with immune systems.
But there are many people who fit these types more than doses.
“If we only consider the number of people (on HIV treatment) and the number of people with HIV, we are talking about some 15,000 people (only in Barcelona),” said Coll.
Immunity, that is more severe in Africa than in Europe and Americamakes public health policy more important, experts say.
As with the coronavirus, contact tracing to identify people who may be infected is important. But, while COVID-19 can spread to anyone only through the air, the closeness of the human body that acts as a major vehicle for the virus makes some people hesitant to share information.
Amós García said “We continue to have new cases, and it is possible that we will have more deaths. Why? Because finding a way to contact each other is very difficult because it can be very difficult for someone he discovered sexual partners,” said Amós García. , epidemiologist and president of the Spanish Vaccine Association.
Spain says that most of those infected are men who have sex with men and only 5% are women. But García insists that this can only happen until all people, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, understand that they have different types. sexual partners poses a greater risk.
“The same thing happened with AIDS, where at one time a group of men who had sex with men were most affected (before spreading to other groups), and that could be the way it goes if we can’t . send a strong message to the community,” said García.
Given the lack of vaccines and the problem contact discoverypressure is being put on strengthening prevention.
Sebastian Meyer, president of STOP SIDA, a group dedicated to the treatment of AIDS in Barcelona’s LGBTQ community, said that the trick is that his group and others like it will be reliable communicators and know-it-alls. – everyone knows how to manage health. warning home.
While community groups representing gay men and women have bombarded social media, websites and blogs with information on monkeypox protection, Meyer said there is more to come. to be done.
Meyer, who sits on the Spanish government’s smallpox advisory committees and regional authorities covering Barcelona, believes fatigue from the COVID-19 pandemic has played a role. Doctors advise people to meningitis wounds to isolate until fully healed, which may take up to three weeks.
“When people read that they have to self-isolate, they close the page and forget what they read,” Meyer said. “We’re just coming out of COVID, when you can’t do this or that, and now, here we go again… People just hate it and put their heads in the sand.”
Meyer said his group is currently planning ways to revive and relaunch their message.
“If you’re not selected for a vaccine, the answer is don’t hope you’ll get one,” he said. “The answer is to be careful. That’s better than any injection.”
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