Misinformation has surrounded the monkeypox virus since its resurgence in early May and as cases continue to rise the myths grow in tandem. As the world witnessed in the Covid-19 pandemic, it is imperative to separate fact from fiction to ensure the wellbeing of ourselves and those around us.
Here are five monkeypox questions answered.
1. What is monkeypox?
The monkeypox virus is in the same family as variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox but far less severe and rarely lead to fatality.
Symptoms of monkeypox can include:
- Muscle aches and backache
- Swollen lymph nodes
- A rash that can look like pimples or blisters that appear on the face, inside the mouth, and on other parts of the body, like the hands, feet, chest, genitals, or anus.
Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a pox-like disease festered among a research colony of apes. But despite the name, the exact source of the disease remains unknown.
2. Is monkeypox a sexually transmitted disease?
Person-to-person transmission requires close, skin-to-skin contact with the rash, scabs, or respiratory droplets of those infected. This description could apply to sexual activity, but the disease does not require intercourse to be transmitted.
3. Can only men who have sex with men contract monkeypox?
The virus has disproportionately affected the LGBTQ+ community but ANYONE can contract the virus regardless of sexual orientation or partner.
This is the most dangerous idea surrounding monkeypox as the misconception is that if you are not a part of the LGBTQ+ community you do not have to be aware of what is happening with the outbreak. Every person must be aware of the risks and prevention methods to protect themselves and their loved ones.
4. Can monkeypox spread in a crowded area, similar to Covid-19?
Unlike Covid, monkeypox is not airborne and cannot be contracted by briefly sharing the same airspace as those infected. However, if you are in a tight space with prolonged skin-to-skin contact like at a crowded bar your risk of contracting monkeypox from an infected person increases. Close face-to-face talking or kissing can also increase the risk as the disease spreads through respiratory droplets.
Monkeypox is also not waterborne and cannot be spread by sharing a swimming pool with an infected person unless skin-to-skin contact is made. Sharing towels or sheets with an infected person can also increase the risk.
5. Can anyone get the monkeypox vaccine?
Due to the limited supply, local public health authorities are only distributing vaccines to those who meet eligibility criteria in a reactive effort to fight the spread.
According to the NHS, those eligible include:
- People who have been exposed directly to the virus.
- People who may be exposed to the virus due to their work environments such as a laboratory or hospital.
- Men who have sex with men.
To combat misinformation and ensure you are receiving accurate updates on the outbreak, check reputable and evidence-based sources including the National Health Service, the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.