Explained: Are men who have sex with men at higher risk of catching monkeypox?
New Delhi, May 21: Even as the world is battling Covid-19, the rise of Monkeypox cases in Europe and North America has become a reason for worry. Governments around the world are keeping a close eye on the disease.
So, What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a disease caused by the monkeypox virus. It is a viral zoonotic disease, meaning that it can spread from animals to humans. It can also spread between people.
How Monkeypox Spreads?
As per the World Health Organisation, Monkeypox can spread from one person to another through close physical contact, including sexual contact.
Monkeypox rashes are sometimes found on genitals and in the mouth, which is likely to contribute to transmission during sexual contact. Mouth-to-skin contact could thus cause transmission where skin or mouth lesions are present.
Monkeypox rashes can resemble some sexually transmitted diseases, including herpes and syphilis. This may explain why several of the cases in the current outbreak have been identified amongst men seeking care in sexual health clinics.
The risk of becoming infected with monkeypox is not limited to people who are sexually active or men who have sex with men. Anyone who has close physical contact with someone who is infectious is at risk. Anyone who has symptoms that could be monkeypox should seek advice from a health worker immediately.
It is currently not known whether monkeypox can be spread through sexual transmission routes (e.g., through semen or vaginal fluids), but direct skin-to-skin contact with lesions during sexual activities can spread the virus.
Are men who have sex with men at higher risk of catching monkeypox?
The risk of monkeypox is not limited to people who are sexually active or men who have sex with men. Anyone who has close physical contact with someone who is infectious is at risk. Anyone who has symptoms that could be monkeypox should seek advice from a health care provider immediately. This includes people who have connections to communities where cases have been reported, the WHO said.
Several of the cases that have been reported from non-endemic countries have been identified in men who have sex with men. These cases were identified at sexual health clinics. The reason behind the reports of cases of monkeypox in communities of men who have sex with men may be because of positive health seeking behaviour in this demographic.
Monkeypox rashes can resemble some sexually transmitted diseases, including herpes and syphilis, which may explain why these cases are being picked up at sexual health clinics. It is likely that as we learn more, we may identify cases in the broader community.
How to Protect Yourself from Monkeypox?
You can reduce your risk by limiting contact with people who have suspected or confirmed monkeypox.
If you do need to have physical contact with someone who has monkeypox because you are a health worker or live together, encourage the infected person to self-isolate and cover any skin lesion if they can (e.g., by wearing clothing over the rash). When you are physically close to them, they should wear a medical mask, especially if they are coughing or have lesions in their mouth. You should wear one also. Avoid skin-to-skin contact whenever possible and use disposable gloves if you have any direct contact with lesions. Wear a mask when handling any clothes or bedding if the person cannot do it themselves.
Regularly clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub, especially after contact with the person who is infected, their clothes, bed sheets, towels and other items or surfaces they have touched or that might have come into contact with their rash or respiratory secretions (e.g., utensils, dishes). Wash the person's clothes, towels and bedsheets and eating utensils with warm water and detergent. Clean and disinfect any contaminated surfaces and dispose of contaminated waste (e.g., dressings) appropriately.