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HEALTH

Merkel suffers third shaking spell as questions persist about Chancellor’s health

German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted she was "very well", despite suffering her third trembling spell in less than a month on Wednesday that revived questions about her health.

Merkel suffers third shaking spell as questions persist about Chancellor's health
Angela Merkel with Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne. Photo: DPA

Merkel began shaking involuntarily as national anthems were being played at the reception of Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne.

But she attended a press conference as planned just around an hour later, telling journalists that her health was no cause for concern.

“I feel very well, there is no need to worry,” she said, adding that she was simply still in a phase of “processing” a previous shaking spell, but that “there has been progress”.

“I must now keep going with that,” added Merkel, who turns 65 next week.

A source close to the government had said the cause of the repeat shaking was now psychological, with memories of the first incident provoking renewed trembling at events with similar settings.

The shaking on Wednesday was visible although less severe than during the first episode in June.

On that occasion she appeared unsteady and shook as she stood in the midday sun next to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, whom she was welcoming with military honours.

That first bout of shaking was blamed on dehydration, but a second episode struck a week later at the end of June, just hours before she was due to board a plane for a G20 summit in Japan.

Officials had sought to play down fears over her health then, saying that she was fine and that she would not be cancelling any planned engagements.

READ ALSO: Should Germany be worried about Merkel's health after trembling spell?

Robust health

Merkel, who has been leader of Europe's biggest economy for almost 14 years, has always enjoyed relatively robust health.

Frequently called the European Union's most influential leader and the most powerful woman in the world, Merkel has said she will leave politics at the end of her term, in 2021.

But she has struggled to stamp out repeated speculation that she may leave the political stage earlier than planned.

The coalition that she had forged with the centre-left Social Democratic Party was fragile from the start, and has lurched from crisis to crisis.

The latest health scares have prompted additional questions over the length of her reign.

There were brief concerns about her well-being in 2014 when she was taken ill during a television interview. The broadcast was interrupted when she experienced a drop in blood pressure.

Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert explained at the time that the leader did not feel well for a moment, then ate and drank something and continued the interview.

Earlier that same year, she had fractured her pelvis while cross-country skiing in Switzerland and was ordered to cut back her schedule dramatically and stay in bed as much as possible for three weeks.

A keen hiker too, Merkel herself once revealed that she has a “camel-like” ability to store energy for sleepless all-night summits.

“Angela Merkel's health is now a political issue,” said Germany's largest  selling daily Bild.

“If signs of physical or psychological weaknesses appear often, the  government would have to rethink its stonewalling tactic. Otherwise, rumours will take on a life of their own,” warned the daily.

In case of emergency, Merkel would be replaced by Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who would carry out her duties until parliament elected a new leader.

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HEALTH

Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens ‘among new infections’

Two teenage boys between the ages of 15-17 have reportedly been infected by monkeypox, as the number of cases in Germany continues to grow.

Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens 'among new infections'

German news site Spiegel Online first reported the new cases – which are an anomaly for a virus as it has mostly affected gay men – following an inquiry to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). 

They are among a total of 2,677 people who are confirmed to have contracted the virus in Germany to date. There have not been any fatalities.

Out of these, only five cases were women, according to the RKI. The public health institute said that it does not release information on individual cases.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Germany wants to contain the monkeypox

The disease – which is not usually fatal – often manifests itself through fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.

The virus can be transmitted through contact with skin lesions and droplets of a contaminated person, as well as through shared items such as bedding and towels.

Many of the cases known so far concern homosexual and bisexual men. However, affected people and experts have repeatedly warned against stigmatising gay communities.

How fatal is the disease?

The first monkeypox cases were reported in Germany on May 20th, as the disease continued to spread in West Europe.

At the weekend, the first two deaths outside of West Africa were reported in Spain.

READ ALSO: WHO warns ‘high’ risk of monkeypox in Europe as it declares health emergency

The RKI has urged people returning from West Africa and in particular gay men, to see their doctors quickly if they notice any chances on their skin.

According to the latest estimates, there are 23,000 monkeypox cases worldwide, and Europe is particularly affected with 14,000 cases.

There have been 2,677 monkeypox cases in Germany as of August 2, 2022. Photo: CDC handout

About eight percent of patients in Europe have been hospitalised so far, reported the World Health Association on Monday, mostly due to severe pain or additional infections.

In general, the mortality of the variant currently circulating in Europe is estimated to be low.

READ ALSO: More cases of monkeypox ‘expected’ in Germany

Will a vaccine make a difference?

Since July, a vaccine has been authorised in 27 EU member states and in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. 

The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends vaccination against monkeypox in Germany for certain risk groups and people who have had close contact with infected people.

So far, the German government has ordered 240,000 vaccine doses, of which 40,000 had been delivered by Friday. 

Around 200,000 doses are set to follow by the end of September. 

The German Aids Federation (DAH) on Friday called for one million vaccine doses, stressing that the current supplies will fall short of meeting need.

“The goal must be to reduce the number of infections as quickly as possible and to get the epidemic permanently under control,” explained Ulf Kristal of the DAH board in Berlin on Friday.

But this is only possible, he said, if as many people at risk of infection as possible are vaccinated.

“We don’t assume the epidemic will be over when the doses available so far have been vaccinated,” Axel Jeremias Schmidt, Epidemiologist and DAH Consultant for Medicine and Health Policy, wrote in a press release.

As long as there are monkeypox infections, he said, people who are at risk must be offered vaccination. 

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