The World Health Organization recommends that gay and bisexual men limit sexual partners to reduce the spread of the disease

People line up outside a nonprofit clinic to test the Positive Awareness Network to receive the monkeypox vaccine in Chicago, Illinois, July 25, 2022

Eric Cox | Reuters

The World Health Organization recommended on Wednesday that gay and bisexual men limit the number of their sexual partners to protect themselves against monkeypox and help slow the transmission of the fast-spreading virus.

Monkeypox expert at the World Health Organization, Rosamund Lewis, said that MSM is the group most at risk of infection at the moment. About 99% of cases are among men, Lewis said, and at least 95% of those patients are men who have sex with men.

The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said it was essential for public health authorities to engage MSM communities to reduce transmission of the virus and care for those infected, while protecting human rights by combating stigma and discrimination.

“For MSM, this currently includes, reducing the number of your sexual partners, reconsidering having sex with new partners, and exchanging contact details with any new partners to enable follow-up if necessary,” Tedros said.

Tedros called on social media platforms, tech companies and news organizations to confront harmful information, which he warned would only lead to an outbreak.

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The WHO chief said: “Stigma and discrimination can be as dangerous as any virus and can fuel an outbreak. As we’ve seen with misinformation about Covid-19, this information can spread rapidly across the internet.”

More than 18,000 cases of monkeypox have now been reported in 78 countries, according to data from the World Health Organization. About 10% of monkeypox patients are hospitalized to deal with the pain caused by the disease. Five deaths have been reported in Africa, according to the World Health Organization.

The World Health Organization declared a global health emergency in response to the outbreak over the weekend as cases increased rapidly. The current outbreak is very unusual because the virus is spreading widely in Europe and North America, where the virus is not usually found. Historically, monkeypox spread at low levels in remote parts of West and Central Africa where rodents and other animals carried the virus.

Europe is currently the epicenter of the global outbreak, reporting more than 70% of monkeypox cases. About 25% of monkeypox cases have been reported in the Americas, where the United States has been the epicenter of the outbreak in the Western Hemisphere, according to data from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The United States has reported more than 3,500 cases of monkeypox in 46 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The United States has the second highest number of monkeypox cases in the world, after Spain.

Scientists from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said monkeypox virus spreads primarily through skin-to-skin contact during sex. Lewis said the virus would have a chance to spread more widely if people did not take precautions by limiting the number of sexual partners and anonymous sexual contact.

“If there is no intervention in a circumstance where there is a lot of skin contact on a regular basis, perhaps in the context of multiple partnerships or contact with anonymous partners, it would be a circumstance, without intervention, where the virus could spread more easily,” Lewis said.

In the past, people with monkeypox transmitted the virus to less than another person on average, which is why previous outbreaks were not widely spread. But Lewis said an individual with monkeypox might be able to pass the virus on to more people now because global immunity has waned as smallpox vaccination becomes less common. Monkeypox belongs to the same family as smallpox, although it causes milder disease.

Experts have not been able to conclude whether monkeypox represents a new type of sexually transmitted infection, although it is clearly transmitted during sex, according to Andy Seal, a WHO consultant who specializes in sexually transmitted diseases. It’s also unclear whether condoms will help reduce the risk of infection because monkeypox spreads through close physical contact that resembles herpes, Sell said.

“The really crucial piece is focused on close, intimate personal contact, and the prolonged contact that occurs during sex as a primary means of transmission,” Sell said. Scientists in Spain and Italy have discovered monkeypox DNA in semen samples from patients, although it is unclear whether the virus actually spreads in this way.

Although monkeypox mainly spreads during sex, anyone can contract the virus through close physical contact. This includes hugging and kissing within the family, for example, as well as sharing contaminated towels or bedding. There have been cases of women and children who contracted the virus during the current outbreak, although transmission appears to be low in the broader community at the moment.

Monkeypox can also be spread through respiratory droplets when infected individuals have lesions in their mouths, although this requires a prolonged face-to-face interaction. Lewis said the outbreak can still be contained if people limit their exposure now.

“It’s very important for anyone with monkeypox to isolate, so they can protect anyone else who lives in their home or anyone else they may have come into contact with,” Lewis said. “Household transmission is the method that was first discovered, and transmission may begin in the home in some circumstances.”

According to the US CDC, most people who get monkeypox recover within two to four weeks. But the virus causes a rash that can be very painful. In the past, monkeypox began with flu-like symptoms and then developed into a rash that can spread throughout the body.

But the symptoms of monkeypox in the current outbreak have been unusual. Some people develop a rash first, while others develop a rash without any flu-like symptoms at all. Many people develop a localized rash on their genitals or anus.

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