For many years monkeypox was known to be a threat to people, but it was not recognized as a disease that could spread through sexual contact. This has changed. The present outbreak is the most severe that has been linked to the virus, and it’s been declared as a global emergency.
At this point, according to officials that all evidence suggests that the disease spreads mostly through networks of males who have had sexual relations with males. “It clearly is spreading as an STI (sexually transmitted infection) at this point,” said Dr. Tom Inglesby, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
To safeguard those who are most at risk, and to limit the spread and contain the spread, the public health agencies are turning their efforts on these males — and are battling the virus based on the way it’s acting now.This week, the chief of the World Health Organization advised men who are at risk of contracting monkeypox to think about reducing their companions “for the moment.”
It is an incredibly complex disease that is likely to change the manner in which it spreads and what populations are most affected. There’s also debate on whether monkeypox should actually be classified as sexually transmitted as some have complained that it creates a negative image and can be used to discredit gay and bisexual males.
Monkeypox can be spread in nonsexual ways too. It’s not enough to just use condoms or other common ways to prevent STDs, Inglesby and other experts suggest.
Here’s what we know.
WHAT MAKES SOMETHING AN STD?
Sexually transmitted diseases are generally described as one that mostly is transmitted by sexual contact. However, some STDs can be transmitted in different ways, too. HIV is spread via sharing needles. Syphilis can be spread by kissing. A commonsexual illness caused by parasites known as trichomoniasis was found to be spread by sharing humid, damp objects such as towels or sponges.
Monkeypox does not generally been able to spread quickly across the globe, and scientists remain trying to figure out the exact mechanism by which it spreads from one person to another. In Africa where outbreaks of small size are commonplace for a long time individuals have been infected by bites of rodents or even small animals.
In May, however there were cases that began to appear in Europe as well as in the United States and elsewhere that clearly showed the pattern of infection triggered by close contact with an affected person, as well as other sexually transmitted diseases.
Public health professionals who respond to outbreaks play an important role in how they are dealt with. The majority of research on monkeypox is carried out by specialists who run health clinics for sexual health clinics or have specialized in STDs.
In fact it is true that government officials say that U.S. government’s response needs to be led by experts who have the expertise, according to David C. Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors.
“The STD field has a wealth of knowledge and expertise in these areas developed over decades fighting various outbreaks and diseases affecting the very communities we’re seeing monkeypox taking a toll on today,” Harvey stated in an announcement.
WHO IS GETTING MONKEYPOX?
WHO officials announced last week that 99percent of the cases of monkeypox outside Africa were men, and of these the cases, 98% involved males who have had sexual relations with males. Experts believe that the outbreaks of monkeypox across Europe along with North America were ignited by sexual activity at two nightclubs within Belgium in Belgium and Spain.
The same statistics apply for the cases reported within the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Like in Europe there have been cases in different groups with at least 13 individuals born female and at least two kids.
This week last week, The New England Journal of Medicine published a study on hundreds of monkeypox cases across 16 countries. The study found that the probable source to transmit the virus in 95% cases was intimate sexual contact as stated by medical professionals. The researchers also noted that it was not possible to verify sexual transmission.
This idea was further supported by the observation that the majority of males had lesions on their areas of the genital or anal or around the mouththe areas where sexual contact occurs The researchers noted.
WHY IS THERE A DEBATE ABOUT CALLING IT AN STD?
Although there is widespread agreement between health officials that monkeybox is transmitted by sexual contact Some experts disagree on whether it should be referred to as an STD. They fear that the word is stigmatized in a way and may hinder efforts to recognize diseases and control the spread.
If a disease can be defined to be a sexually-transmitted disease that is primarily affecting men who have sex with males Many people might be inclined to consider this in terms of “a gay disease” that isn’t a threat for them, according to Jason Farley, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing.
This was the case in the beginning of AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. This helped spread HIV to other populations. Farley explained.
“We learn nothing from our history,” said Farley who is gay.
The WHO advice that men at-risk restrict their partners with whom they are sexually intimate is a sensible piece of advice for public health He said. However, it also reinforces “the message that this is a gay disease,” he added.
“This is the fine line between having a public health approach that focuses on the epidemiology of now, compared to the likelihood of the continued emergence of new cases in” the community at large the general population, he added.
“Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection,” said the doctor declared. “It is an infection that can be transmitted with sexual contact.”
WHAT IS KNOWN ABOUT TRANSMISSION?
Researchers have discovered evidence of the virus monkeypox in the semen. A study from Spain discovered the monkeypox virus’ DNA in the semen of patients as well as the saliva as well as other bodily fluids. The study couldn’t determine whether the virus really spread to semen.
Finding out the cause could alter the knowledge of not just how people spread the virus however, also the length of time they are likely to be infectious. Evidence of other viruses — such as Ebola and Zika have been detected in the sperm of some patients several months later than they had been believed to be completely recovered.
Scientists believe that the most common route for transmission in the current outbreak is the contact of skin to skin with someone with symptoms. In that sense it’s similar to herpes, as some experts have noted.
The virus may also be spread through saliva or respiratory droplets in the course of prolonged encounters with one another, like during cuddling and kissing an example of a transmission that may occur in a non-sexual setting.
Researchers are studying the frequency and under what circumstances this type of outbreak could occur in the future, according to Christopher Mores, a professor of global health at George Washington University.
“We would do ourselves a disservice to try and exclude anything from the realm of possibility at this point,” said the president.
The government also says that people are susceptible to contracting monkeypox when they touch objects that had previously touched an affected person’s rash or body fluids such as sheets or towels. This is believed to be the reason for the outbreaks of U.S. children.
WHY ARE THESE DETAILS IMPORTANT?
It is crucial to know how the virus spreads to provide the people with the knowledge they need to be protected Health officials advise.
However, health professionals consider that those most at risk are bisexual or gay individuals who have sexual relationships with many partners. This understanding has informed a lot of the efforts to control the disease, which includes prioritizing the distribution of treatments and vaccines.
It’s been providing the monkeypox vaccine, however the quantity isn’t as high. At present, it’s only advised as a treatment for post-exposure or for those who have been involved in multiple sexual relationships over the last two weeks in an area where cases of monkeypox have been confirmed.
The vaccine is brand new and the authorities are working to collect information on how effective it is.