What is Monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic infection, meaning that it can spread from animals to humans. However, the virus can spread from person to person through close contact, such as face-to-face (talking, breathing closely), skin-to-skin (touching, vaginal/anal sex), mouth-to-mouth (kissing), and mouth-to-skin (oral sex, kissing). Also, transmission is possible through a contaminated environment (Lum et al., 2022; Tarín-Vicente et al., 2022; WHO, 2022).
Signs & Symptoms
The symptoms vary from case to case but mostly include fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, low energy, and swollen lymph nodes, followed by a rash (pimples/blisters) lasting for 2-3 weeks. Mostly, the rash affects the face, palms of the hands, soles of the feet, groin, genital, and/or anal regions. However, it may also be found in the areas such as the mouth, throat, anus or vagina, or on the eyes. The illness goes away in a few weeks without specific interventions if an immunocompromised status is not an issue (Sah et al., 2022; Tarín-Vicente et al., 2022; WHO, 2022).
Current Epidemiological Situation & Transmission Patterns
The number of people affected by Monkeypox became overwhelming during the multi-country outbreak in 2022. Numerous studies have been conducted and some are still underway to find more, however, some of the possible mechanisms of transmission and disease development are not well-understood. In the current outbreak, most cases are detected among men, and the vast majority of them are men who have sex with men (MSM), especially the ones having sex with multiple and/or new partners. Thus, it is not limited to communities of MSM, anyone having close contact with an infected individual is at risk.
Is Monkeypox A Sexually Transmitted Disease (STI)?
Even though the virus has been found in semen, and sexual contact is involved in more than 91% of cases, it is still a subject of concern if an infection can be spread through vaginal fluid or semen. Monkeypox rushes have a similar appearance to herpes and syphilis, which explains the fact that infected cases were detected at sexual health clinics having suspicions of STIs (Sah et al., 2022; Tarín-Vicente et al., 2022). Until solid scientific evidence supports it, Monkeypox has not been considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI), as it can spread through any form of close contact with the infectious elements on the skin. (Di Gennaro et al., 2022; Lum et al., 2022). So, jumping to conclusions can lead to misinformation, risk-taking behavior, stigma and discrimination; Misconception can keep people away from medical care, making the situation even worse.
Recommendations to Keep Safe
The best ways to minimize the risk of catching Monkeypox are: cleaning hands frequently, disinfecting frequently touched surfaces because common household disinfectants work well to kill the virus, learning more about the disease affecting your community, sharing evidence-based and non-stigmatized information, keeping updated on trusted sources (WHO, CDC). In case of having close contact with an infected person, regardless of who they are, who they have sex with, or other factors, isolation for 21 days from the last contact is the best way to protect yourself and others. If testing positive, self-isolation is highly recommended (until the sores are crusted over) as well as seeking for healthcare provider if needed (CDC, 2022; Di Gennaro et al., 2022; Sah et al., 2022; WHO, 2022).
CDC. (2022, September 7). Monkeypox in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/index.html
Di Gennaro, F., Veronese, N., Marotta, C., et al. (2022). Human Monkeypox: A Comprehensive Narrative Review and Analysis of the Public Health Implications. Microorganisms, 10(8), 1633. https://doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms10081633
Lum, F.-M., Torres-Ruesta, A., Tay, M. Z., et al. (2022). Monkeypox: Disease epidemiology, host immunity and clinical interventions. Nature Reviews. Immunology, 1–17. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41577-022-00775-4
Sah, R., Abdelaal, A., Reda, A., et al. (2022). Monkeypox and Its Possible Sexual Transmission: Where Are We Now with Its Evidence? Pathogens, 11(8), 924. https://doi.org/10.3390/pathogens11080924
Tarín-Vicente, E. J., Alemany, A., Agud-Dios, M., et al. (2022). Clinical presentation and virological assessment of confirmed human monkeypox virus cases in Spain: A prospective observational cohort study. The Lancet, 400(10353), 661–669. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(22)01436-2
WHO. (2022). Monkeypox. https://www.who.int/news-room/questions-and-answers/item/monkeypox?gclid=Cj0KCQjw94WZBhDtARIsAKxWG–OOk6y-rkkKWHS0pDcKmu0tLoIzA8JuIHIBdnjmtkPwDw2ZyvOv2caAvvhEALw_wcB