Monkeypox cases are surging... Do I need to worry about it?
Photo by DSD from Pexels
So what do we know or not know about monkeypox at this point? What are some common misconceptions? We hope to clarify this in this article.
Table of Contents:
What is Monkeypox?
Monkeypox was first discovered in 1970 and has typically been limited to Africa. Since its discovery, its spread has primarily been limited to contact with wildlife, and even for cases that have travelled out of the region, the secondary spread has been limited.
Fatality data have ranged from 1-10%, but this is expected to be lower in the current pandemic as a result of different demographics and health systems outside of settings where monkeypox was previously endemic.
What are its signs, symptoms, and incubation periods?
Monkeypox rashes have been described as being quite distinct, and accompany symptoms such as
Enlarged lymph nodes,
The incubation period is usually 1-2 weeks but can range from 5-21 days, Illness can last up to 2 to 4 weeks.
How is monkeypox transmitted?
We have evidence that monkeypox is transmitted through large respiratory droplets, close or direct contact with skin lesions, and possibly through contaminated surfaces.
Even though we know it is based on close physical contact, more research is being done on how often monkeypox can be spread through respiratory droplets as well as through other bodily fluids like sexual fluids, urine, faeces, and so on.
Is monkeypox a sexually transmitted disease?
Messaging has been inconsistent around this, and there is debate on this.
But let’s try to offer some clarity. Yes, there is some evidence that monkeypox can be sexually transmitted. However, does this mean that we should label it a sexually transmitted disease (STD)?
For example, the Zika virus is typically transmitted through mosquitoes. But there is evidence that it can also be sexually transmitted. But we don’t offer to hear about it as a traditional STD. In the same vein, it may be useful to not label monkeypox an STD for now due to a few reasons.
Anyone can get monkeypox – even if you aren’t sexually active. Children have been getting it so it shouldn’t be labelled a sexually transmitted infection. There have now been clear case reports of individuals getting it from attending large gatherings too.
Even if you are sexually active, unlike most sexually transmitted infection, wearing a condom or taking sexual precautions will not protect you from monkeypox. Labelling it as an STD may send the wrong information.
From a communications perspective, labelling it a sexually transmitted infection may stigmatise monkeypox infection – this may prevent individuals from stepping forward even if they have it.
Overall, if it's framed as an STD when it's not, it may lead to misconceptions that one is at lower risk when they might not be and that it is not necessary to learn more about monkeypox prevention or ways to get help.
Isn’t monkeypox a disease among gay men?
Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM) are not at greater risk of monkeypox due to their sexual orientation. The virus does not discriminate! This is entirely an issue of mathematics or statistics.
Everyone must know that anyone can get monkeypox. It is especially important now that individuals who do not identify as GBMSM are getting it.
Nevertheless, if you are an individual who identified as GBMSM and are looking for resources, look for your local community organizations who will be able to point you towards health and safety resources that have been tailored to your needs.
What can I do to protect myself?
In general, whatever you do, keep updated on the monkeypox situation in your local communities. If you are seeing a surge in cases, consider how much close, personal, skin-to-skin contact is likely to occur at an event you plan to attend. If you feel sick or have a rash, do not attend any gathering, and see a healthcare provider. This applies to sexual contact, as well as even large dance parties or raves around the world.
If vaccines are available in your area, find out more with your local health provider who will be able to conduct an eligibility assessment for you.
Overall, regardless of whether you are at risk or not, as a global health emergency, it is important to stay updated on the latest news and science of monkeypox and learn more about where to go if you need help in your community.