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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.

An employee at a Munich clinic with a dose of the vaccine from Bavarian Nordic.
An employee at a Munich clinic with a dose of the vaccine from Bavarian Nordic. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

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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HEALTH

Ticks in Germany: How to avoid them and what to do if you get bitten

A recent increase in diseases related to the eight-legged bloodsuckers in Germany suggests that ticks are on the rise. We break drown what to look out for and what to do if you get bitten.

Ticks in Germany: How to avoid them and what to do if you get bitten

What are ticks?

Ticks are tiny, spider-like creatures that are usually between 1mm to 1cm in size. They generally live in long grass, bushes and wooded areas.

These little arachnids don’t fly or jump but climb onto animals or humans as they brush past. They are parasites, and once a tick bites into the skin, it feeds on blood for a few days before dropping off. 

Are they dangerous?

During this unpleasant bloodsucking transaction, ticks can transmit diseases to humans which can become dangerous. 

The disease which is mostly associated with ticks is Early Summer Meningoencephalitis (TBE) which, in severe cases, can cause permanent damage such as paralysis, or even death. Thanks to the mild winter and increasingly warm temperatures, this disease is on the rise this year in Germany.

READ ALSO: How climate change is threatening Germany’s forests

The other main disease associated with ticks is Lyme disease which, in the most severe cases, can attack the nervous system, joints, and organs. 

What are the symptoms?

Those who develop Lyme disease can get flu-like symptoms a few days or weeks after being bitten by an infected tick. Children might lose their appetite, lack energy, or complain of stomach ache.

But the most obvious sign of Lyme disease is a red circular rash around the bite.

A woman walks her dog through a patch of long grass. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/HUK-COBURG | Hagen Lehmann

However, if you remove the tick in less than twelve hours, you usually have nothing to worry about, as it takes a while for the infection to be passed onto humans. 

The situation is different with TBE, however, as the disease is transmitted much faster. But, thankfully, it is also much rarer: according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), only 0.1 to 5 percent of ticks in risk areas carry TBE viruses.

Most people infected with TBE don’t have any symptoms, while one in three initially suffers from flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, and aching limbs. In rare cases, the spinal cord can be affected, with symptoms such as severe headaches and neck pain, nausea, and impaired consciousness.

In the majority of patients, the disease heals completely, but in an average of one percent of cases, it can be fatal. 

Luckily, there is a vaccination against TBE, which is recommended for those regularly visiting high-risk areas.

Where am I most likely to get bitten?

Ticks can be found all over Germany – even in city parks. However, TBE infections occur more frequently in so-called TBE risk areas, and the RKI has an updated map of these areas

These are found in large parts of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, and parts of southern Hesse, Saxony, and Thuringia, but there are also isolated risk areas in central Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate, and Saarland. 

In February, the number of TBE risk areas was expanded by the RKI to include five new TBE risk areas in Bavaria, Saxony and Lower Saxony, so that there are now a total of 161 affected districts.

What should I do if I get bitten by a tick?

Firstly, it is unlikely that you will even feel the tick bite, which is why it’s important to check yourself carefully when returning from a trip to the countryside or a risk area. 

Ticks tend to bite around thin areas of the skin such as kneecaps, groin, armpits, and hairline. In children, they can often be found on the scalp and behind the ears.

Using tweezers is a good way to pull a tick out of the skin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-central picture | Patrick Pleul

If you do find a tick, you should remove it quickly with a special tick remover (available at all pharmacies), tweezers, or your fingernails. The sooner you can do this, the lower the risk the tick will be able to infect you.

The important thing is to make sure you remove the whole tick, by grabbing it as close to the skin as possible and pulling slowly. Then wash and clean the bite, and contact a doctor if you’re worried.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

One thing you shouldn’t do is to put oily liquids on the tick, as this could enrage it and cause it to release saliva potentially containing harmful pathogens.

How can I prevent a tick bite?

If you’ll be spending time in wooded areas, long grass, or known risk areas, you should wear long-sleeved tops and full-legged trousers and tuck trousers into socks. Children should also wear a hat, as ticks can climb to their height in bushes.

In short: have as little skin exposed as possible. 

It’s also sensible to wear light-coloured clothing so you can easily spot a tick if one bites you.

Useful vocabulary

tick = (die) Zecke = tick

tick bite = (der) Zeckenbiss

tweezers = (die) Pinzette

tick pliers = (die) Zeckenzange

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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