Germany reported more than 700 positive cases of the infectious virus new to people, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday, warning the new strains may pose “a very dramatic situation.”
Covid fell to a record high around Europe in recent weeks, but WHO said the vaccination rate now stands at 44 percent of the population.
A total of 787 cases of the sexually transmitted virus were reported in the first five months of this year compared with 550 in all of 2017, the agency said in a statement issued in Geneva.
The disease has spread primarily through migratory bird populations in northeastern Europe, which have been infected by wild bird faeces, and over the past couple of weeks in the Canary Islands, the latest WHO report said.
“According to the latest data, nearly 60 percent of cases of the congenital disease have been transmitted from mother to child in Finland and Denmark and 30 percent from mother to child in Iceland,” the WHO said.
“In Belgium, about 30 percent of patients with congenital viroses have contracted congenital diseases through sex.”
An infant born to a mother who is already infected with the virus has an increased risk of developing congenital Viroses (CVI) – the most serious of the sexual transmitted diseases – the WHO report said.
The infection in children in Ukraine and Bulgaria appears to be asymptomatic in most cases, it said.
“However, in at least one recent case, a newborn baby was born with cervical T-cell adenocarcinoma, a newly reported indicator of the respiratory disease,” it said.
Vivian Stocker, senior coordinator for the European and Mediterranean Program at the WHO, told Reuters on Friday the agency was closely monitoring the situation.
“This is a very serious situation for human health, because sometimes congenital virus infection can be very serious when it is transmitted from mother to infant,” she said.
“The health authorities have the tools to control this and the challenge is getting the coverage of the vaccination up.”
The World Health Organization and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in Lisbon co-ordinated the investigations. The ECDC and WHO are the lead organizations on congenital infections in Europe.