Monkeypox in India: Is It a Sexually Transmitted Disease?
Initial media reports made it sound like a sexually transmitted disease, but anyone can get monkeypox. What to know.
The Quint DAILY
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On Saturday, 23 July, the World Health Organization declared monkeypox a public health emergency of International concern (PHEIC).
Following this, WHO chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a press briefing noted that a vast majority of those infected have been men who have sex with men (MSM), adding the best way to protect against the disease is to limit it's exposure.
Monkeypox, a viral infection with smallpox like symptoms, has been spreading rapidly, with the total global caseload hitting 17,000 in over 65 countries.
In India, the first case was reported on 14 July in Kerala, and since then atleast 4 more cases have been confirmed.
Although monkeypox isn't a new virus, and the illness has been around for years, the reason for the current outbreaks is still not clear.
Moreover, hasty media coverage in the early days has led to some misinformation circulating about the illness and how it spreads.
Although most recorded patients have been gay and bisexual men, they aren't the only ones at risk.
Is It an STI?
Data on Monkeypox cases spreading in Europe, US, and UK points to most patients being men who have sex with men (MSM), leading to the idea that it is an STD spreading through unprotected sex.
Speaking at the press briefing, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the best way to tackle the spread of the virus was “to reduce the risk of exposure”, adding, “for men who have sex with men, this includes, for the moment, reducing your number of sexual partners, reconsidering sex with new partners, and exchanging contact details with any new partners to enable follow-up if needed.”
However, The WHO chief also reiterates that "anyone exposed can get monkeypox."
Notably, there isn't definite evidence yet to suggest that the virus is found in semen, faeces or vaginal fluids. According to the US CDC, researchers are still working on this.
But, because monkeypox spreads through direct close contact, the risk is higher during sexual activity.
To put it simply, it spreads through sexual activity, but it isn't restricted to sex. Anyone can get infected.
Healthcare workers who are exposed to infected patients, those in the households of infected patients who have a close contact with them are all vulnerable to infection.
The WHO has also warned against stigmatizing gay men, saying "Stigma and discrimination can be as dangerous as any virus."
How Does It Spread?
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention maintains that the risk of transmission is 'believed to be low', and that the virus is known to spread among humans through direct close contact.
How monkeypox spreads from human-to-human:
Skin-to-skin contact with a symptomatic patient
Contact with lesions, bodily fluids of a symptomatic patient
Exposure to droplet respiratory particle because of prolonged face to face contact
Direct contact with recently contaminated objects
Speaking to FIT, epidemiologist and public health expert, Dr Chandrakant Lahariya also adds that unlike COVID-19, monkeypox doesn't spread unless the infected person has symptoms.
It also has a longer incubation period of 6 -15 days.
According to the US CDC, because monkeypox spreads through direct skin contact, the risk is higher in crowded small spaces like clubs.
If you suspect having come in contact with an infected person, or suspect someone close to you is infected, potentially infected clothes, bedding, and towels should be washed.
Wash your hands frequently, and keep up general hygiene practises.
If you do notice symptoms that could be monkeypox, isolate yourself to prevent further spread of the virus. Get in contact with a healthcare facility near you, and get tested if possible.
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