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95% monkeypox cases spreading via sexual activity, says study

The rising monkeypox cases has steered attention towards the reasons behind its transmission. Sex, as per a study, is a key driver.
Monkeypox is a disease that is originating from animals. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Radhika Bhirani Published: 22 Jul 2022, 22:38 pm IST
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Monkeypox cases, which have surpassed a mark of 14,000 cases globally, has caused a stir with its quick spread. Five deaths have also been reported, putting the World Health Organization (WHO) on an alert. A study has indicated that transmission was suspected to have occurred through sexual activity in at least 95 percent of people with the infection.

The study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, considers data based on 528 infections diagnosed between April 27 and June 24, 2022, at 43 sites in 16 countries. As many as 98 percent of persons with the monkeypox infection were gay or bisexual men, 75 percent were white and 41 percent had human immunodeficiency virus infection, according to the global case studies series.

Is monkeypox transmissible through sex?

Monkeypox is described as a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus. It is not a sexually transmitted disease, but it can spread via close or skin-to-skin contact with monkeypox rash, scabs, body fluids or respiratory droplets from an infected person, as per the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health Shots reached out to Dr Sheela Murali Chakravarthy, Director – Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital, Bannerghatta Road, Bengaluru, to understand the link between sexual activity and monkeypox.

“Monkeypox is spread by close contact. Hence, it is seen in patients who are hugging are kissing, or it is sexually transmitted. Young adults in sexually active age groups and homosexuals are at higher risk in view of close proximity. Hence, it is important to isolate once infected.”

Monkeypox transmission
Stay away from an infected person. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

As per CDC, the contact can happen during oral, anal and vaginal sex. Even touching the genitals of a person with monkeypox can lead to the infection.

Having multiple or anonymous sex partners can, therefore, increase chances for exposure to monkeypox.

“The need to spread awareness in the high-risk population is a must. Vaccination is available only for high risk group of men-to-men transmissions in the US. And in India, we are yet to have the vaccination for monkeypox,” added the expert.

So far, three monkeypox cases in India have been reported.

WHO recently released a special advisory on monkeypox for gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, considering that cases were being identified in these communities.

Still, it maintains, “Stigmatizing people because of a disease is never okay. Anyone can get or pass on monkeypox, regardless of their sexuality.”

Sex and monkeypox
Sex can wait, please! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

How to avoid getting monkeypox through sexual contact

It would be best to maintain distance and avoid any kind of contact with someone with the infection. In case your partner has tested positive, CDC suggests you to wait for the rashes to heal properly before getting intimate.

It is only once you notice a fresh layer of skin after the scabs have fallen off, should you make personal contact with your partner.

Know the symptoms of monkeypox

* Monkeypox symptoms can last from 2 to 4 weeks, unless it is a severe case.

* The initial period can see the infected person experience fever, headache, swollen lymph nodes, back pain, muscle pain and fatigue.

* Skin rashes or pimples, which are characteristics of monkeypox, may appear 1 to 3 days after fever appears. Here’s how to recognize a monkeypox rash.

* Rashes mostly occur on face in maximum cases, followed palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Other areas that can be affected are oral mucous membranes and genitalia.

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About the Author

Radhika Bhirani is a journalist with close to 15 years of experience in the Indian media industry. After writing extensively on health, lifestyle and entertainment, she leads the English content team at Health Shots. She has a special interest in writing on mental health and wellness. ...Read More

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