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100+ confirmed cases of monkeypox in 12 countries & spreading

A notable proportion of cases in the UK and across Europe have been found in gay & bisexual men health officials say

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Biden talks to reporters on Monkeypox as he leaves South Korea (Screenshot/CNN)

COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, the Regional Director of Europe for the World Health Organisation (WHO) is warning that confirmed cases of monkeypox, which is most often seen in West and Central Africa, has escalated in Europe and elsewhere globally.

The United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Italy and Sweden – as well as the U.S., Canada and Australia are all reporting cases

“The situation is evolving and WHO expects there will be more cases of monkeypox identified as surveillance expands in non-endemic countries,”  Kluge said.

In Britain, the UK Health Security Agency’s Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Susan Hopkins noted in a statement released this past weekend:

“We anticipated that further cases would be detected through our active case finding with NHS services and heightened vigilance among healthcare professionals. We expect this increase to continue in the coming days and for more cases to be identified in the wider community. Alongside this we are receiving reports of further cases being identified in other countries globally. 

Because the virus spreads through close contact, we are urging everyone to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact National Health Service or a sexual health service if they have any concerns.  Please contact clinics ahead of your visit and avoid close contact with others until you have been seen by a clinician.

A notable proportion of recent cases in the UK and Europe have been found in gay and bisexual men so we are particularly encouraging them to be alert to the symptoms and seek help if concerned.

Clinicians should be alert to any individual presenting with unusual rashes without a clear alternative diagnosis and should contact specialist services for advice,” she added.

Monkeypox, which can be transmitted by droplets and by close contact with infected skin lesions or contaminated materials, usually incubates in people for 6 to 13 days before symptoms appear.

UKHSA notes that this rare virus, in the same family as smallpox, has not previously been described as a sexually transmitted infection, but it it can be passed on through very close human contact, such as touching blood or body fluids or prolonged exposure to the respiratory droplets of an infected person. It can also been transmitted with clothing or linens used by an infected person.

In Washington D.C., Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator, told ABC he wouldn’t be surprised if the US saw “a few more” cases of monkeypox in the coming days.

“But I feel like this is a virus we understand, we have vaccines against it, we have treatments against it, and it’s spread very differently than SARS-CoV-2” — the virus that causes Covid-19, Jha told ABC’s Martha Raddatz on Sunday.

Traveling in Asia, President Joe Biden told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins as he was preparing board Air Force One to depart South Korea on Sunday; “They haven’t told me the level of exposure yet, but it is something that everybody should be concerned about,” he said.

“We’re working on it hard to figure out what we do and what vaccine, if any, might be available for it. It is a concern in that if it were to spread it would be consequential. That’s all they told me,” the president added.

CNN reported that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is evaluating whether a smallpox vaccine should be offered to health care workers treating monkeypox patients and other people who may be at “high risk” for exposure to monkeypox.

UK Health Security Agency’s Hopkins cautions that people should be aware of monkeypox — but that the risk to the general population “remains extremely low at the moment.”

“I think people need to be alert to it,” said Hopkins. “We really want clinicians to be alert to it and send the test if they’re concerned.”

Hopkins also said based on reports from Africa, the UKHSA knows certain people are “much more at risk of severe disease, particularly immunosuppressed individuals or young children.

“While there is “no direct vaccine for monkeypox,” she said, “we are using a form of smallpox vaccine or third-generation smallpox vaccine that’s safe on individuals who are contacts of cases.”

Symptoms

Initial symptoms of monkeypox include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion. A rash can develop, often beginning on the face, then spreading to other parts of the body including the genitals.

The rash changes and goes through different stages, and can look like chickenpox or syphilis, before finally forming a scab, which later falls off.

“A feature that distinguishes infection with monkeypox from that of smallpox is the development of swollen lymph nodes,” the CDC said.

Biden Comments On Monkeypox As He Leaves South Korea:

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European Union

Council of Europe upholds report denouncing ‘virulent’ LGBTQ attacks

“LGBTI equality is not a zero-sum game, nor is it a battle for revolutionary ideas,” “It is a question of dignity and fundamental rights”

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Graphic courtesy of the Council of Europe

STRASBOURG, France – The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly voted Tuesday to uphold a scathing report that denounced “virulent attacks” against LGBTQ people in multiple country’s, including the United Kingdom.  

The report – titled “Combating rising hate against LGBTI people in Europe” – by the council, a 47-nation international human rights organization founded after World War II, aimed at the European countries allowing the “backsliding” of LGBTQ rights in the continent. 

“The rising hatred against LGBTI people being witnessed in Europe today is the result of sustained and often well-organised attacks on their human rights,” the report read, adding that “States must act urgently” to “prevent further backsliding.”

The council’s parliamentary arm voted 48-6 to adopt the report. 

Though the resolution acknowledges that Europe has made “significant progress towards making equal rights a reality,” it noted an “increase in hate speech and hate crime.” It added that many attacks “come from political and religious leaders.”

Specifically, the report criticized Hungary, Poland, the Russian Federation, Turkey and the U.K. for launching “virulent attacks” against LGBTQ people “for years.”

“These attacks deliberately mis-characterise the fight for the equality of LGBTI people as so-called ‘gender ideology’ and seek to stifle the identities and realities of all those who challenge the social constructs that perpetuate gender inequalities and gender-based violence in our societies,” it read. 

The report added that believing in “gender critical” views denies the “very existence of LGBTI people [and] dehumanise[s] them.” 

The vote comes at a time when some European nations are attacking LGBTQ rights. 

Poland made worldwide headlines for its “LGBTQ Free Zones” and a proposed law that would ban the so-called “promotion” of LGBTQ+ lifestyles.

In September, the European Commission threatened to withhold pandemic relief funds, totaling over 126 million euros ($150 million), in Polish jurisdictions that passed measures forming “LGBTQ Free Zones.” Some regions have since repealed the anti-LGBTQ+ resolution. 

Last year, Hungary passed a law that bans the promotion of homosexuality and gender-affirming surgery to minors. 

In response, the European Union (EU) launched legal action against Hungary, saying the legislation violated “fundamental rights of LGBTIQ people” under EU law. Hungary has since announced that it will hold a referendum on the law in April.

David Blencathra – a member of the House of Lords, the second chamber of the U.K. Parliament – condemned the inclusion of the U.K. in the resolution to his fellow parliamentarians. 

“I have never before seen such a biased, distorted, utterly wrong work of fiction than his comments about the United Kingdom,” he said, adding: “we don’t need any lectures on how to protect gay rights.”

Blencathra also agreed with Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling’s statement, “erase sex and you erase same-sex attraction.” Many people denounced Rowling’s comment, among others, as being transphobic. 

“It is not trans people who are under attack in the U.K., it is women,” he said. 

However, the report notes that “these attacks are harmful to women as well as LGBTI people.”

Ultimately, Blencathra was one of the six to vote against the resolution. 

In conclusion, the report stated that governments and parliaments “must redouble their efforts to dismantle the heteronormative structures and anti-gender movements in our societies, which perpetuate gender inequality and prevent the acceptance of LGBTI people as equals – and which, in so doing, deny LGBTI people (and all women) dignity and respect.”

“LGBTI equality is not a zero-sum game, nor is it a battle for revolutionary ideas,” it said. “It is a question of dignity and fundamental rights.”

Editor’s Note: The Council of Europe, founded in 1949, is the oldest organisation working for European integration with a particular emphasis on legal standards and protection of human rights, democratic development and the rule of law in Europe. It is an international organisation with legal personality recognised under public international law that serves 800 million Europeans in 47 member states.

The Council of Europe’s work has resulted in standards, charters and conventions to facilitate cooperation between European countries, and further integration.

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European Union

French lawmakers pass conversion therapy ban bill

Measure awaits President Emmanuel Macron’s signature

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

PARIS — French lawmakers on Tuesday approved a bill that would ban so-called conversion therapy in the country.

Têtu, an LGBTQ magazine in France, notes anyone who “practices, (engages in behaviors), or (makes) repeated comments aimed at modifying or repressing a person’s real or supposed sexual orientation or gender identity that physically deteriorates their physical or mental health” would face two years in prison and a €30,000 ($33,778.50) fine. The penalties would increase to three years in prison and a €45,000 ($50,667.75) if the person who undergoes conversion therapy is a minor.

The National Assembly in October unanimously approved a conversion therapy ban bill. The chamber and the French Senate agreed to the measure that passed on Tuesday.

France would join Malta and a handful of other countries to ban conversion therapy if President Emmanuel Macron signs the bill.

A bill that will ban conversion therapy in Canada received final approval in the country’s Senate on Dec. 7. The measure will take effect next month after it received royal assent.

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European Union

EU court recognizes same-sex couples, children

Landmark ruling stems from Bulgaria case

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European Court of Justice, gay news, Washington Blade
The European Court of Justice (Photo by Cédric Puisney; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

LUXEMBOURG — The European Union’s highest court on Tuesday issued a landmark ruling that paves the way for the legal recognition of same-sex couples and their children throughout the EU.

The European Court of Justice issued the ruling in the case of a same-sex couple who was unable to receive a Bulgarian birth certificate for their daughter who was born in Spain.

One of the child’s parents was born in Bulgaria, and the other was born in Gibraltar.

Spain denied the child citizenship because her parents were not Spanish citizens. The U.K. also denied the child British citizenship because the British Nationality Act of 1981 did not allow her Gibraltar-born parent to transfer British citizenship to her.

ILGA-Europe in a press release notes Bulgarian authorities denied a request for the child to become a Bulgarian citizen based on the argument “that a child cannot have two mothers, and refused to issue a birth certificate in which the parents are two persons of the same sex.”

“Sara was therefore deprived of Bulgarian, and therefore European citizenship, and was at risk of statelessness,” notes the press release. “Currently, the child has no personal documents and cannot leave Spain, the country of the family’s habitual residence. The lack of documents restricts Sara’s access to education, healthcare, and social security in Spain.”

ILGA-Europe notes the ruling “asserts that the Bulgarian authorities are obliged to issue an identity card or a passport to” the child and “all other EU member states are obliged to recognize” it.

“We are thrilled about the decision and cannot wait to get Sara her documentation and finally be able to see our families after more than two years,” said the child’s parents in the ILGA-Europe press release. “It is important for us to be a family, not only in Spain but in any country in Europe and finally it might happen. This is a long-awaited step ahead for us but also a huge step for all LGBT families in Bulgaria and Europe.”

Denitsa Lyubenova, director of legal programs for Deystvie, a Bulgarian LGBTQ rights organization, represents the couple. Lyubenova in her own statement also applauded the ruling.

“All European citizens should be treated equally,” said Lyubenova. “Bulgaria is obliged to recognize Sarah’s legal relationship with her two mothers. Bulgaria cannot rely on its national and constitutional identity and public order to derogate from the fundamental rights of EU citizens.”

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