UZ Brussel: ‘It is a pity that we are not allowed to vaccinate against monkey pox’
About fifty patients have tested positive for the monkey pox virus in the UZ Brussel, but none have been admitted at the moment. That says Sabine Allard, head of the department of internal medicine, herself a professor of infectiology. “It is a pity that our patients have to go to another hospital for the vaccine.”
Today, 172 cases of monkey pox are known throughout Brussels, the latest figures from health institute Sciensano showed on Tuesday. That’s just over a third of the 482 cases across the country. In Belgium, 28 people with monkey pox have also been hospitalized so far, in Brussels there were four. Two of them remain in hospital because they could not be in isolation at home, no information is known about the two.
Doctor Allard, are there still patients with monkey pox in the UZ Brussel?
Sabine Allard: generally not. Since monkeypox has been used in our country, we have had a total of three admissions. Those people are now back home. In a disease that is still new to us, it is important to get to know the complaints of patients. That is why in the beginning we lower the threshold for the decision of having someone recorded. We now know better which painkillers can work. Of course, patients are hospitalized who suffer a lot.
Who are the patients you still have calculations?
Allard: So far, we have made a positive diagnosis in almost fifty patients. They are all men and they are all of age. Some are patients we’ve never seen before: they come to us via the emergency department and are scheduled by their GP. We have known another group for some time through our HIV reference center. They report to the outpatient clinic more often and we keep in touch with them for longer.
Are they many Brussels residents?
Allard: The masses do. There are patients from the suburbs, but mainly people we already knew through our HIV center.
At the end of last week, access to the monkey pox vaccine was slightly expanded (men with HIV who contracted at least two sexually transmitted infections in the last year, for example, in attachments, red.). Do you already get a lot of questions?
Allard: Yes, since the announcement announcement our mailbox is full. The first calls came on Saturday, the calls on Monday. Many men with HIV are now wondering about them in reactions to the vaccine.
I personally find it regrettable that we are not one of the nine reference centers for vaccination against the monkeypox virus (that is only possible in the Sint-Pieterziekenhuis in Brussels, ed.). We are in Brussels, together with the Erasmus hospital and the university hospital Saint-Luc, a reference center for HIV patients. Those people now have to knock on the door of another hospital, which then has to consult their medical advice file remotely. That is quite a hassle, we can quickly look it up internally. We can now advise patients about it, but in the end it is up to another doctor to decide if they are actually getting results.
So far, most patients have indicated that they became infected through sexual contact or after very close contact at a party, Sciensano reports. Do you see the activity expanding further to the estimate?
Allard: Nobody has a crystal ball, but we are talking about a very different dynamic than covid. That virus was, as it were, dropped on a population without any immunity. The monkeypox is actually the brother of the smallpox. The somewhat older population still has protection against this thanks to the smallpox vaccine. Secondly, the monkey pox has developed less than covid: we need that there is really close contact with body fluids. This can also be done via objects, yes, but in principle you will not share a towel with someone very often. And third, there are already vaccines. Of course we don’t have enough, but we can start vaccinating a certain group. No, we don’t expect a second covid.