Home / Science / Health /  Can monkeypox spread via sex? Experts share insight on how the virus spreads

Monkeypox cases has continued to surge globally, forcing the World Health Organisation (WHO) to designate it as Global Public Health Emergency. India has four reported cases of the viral infection and one suspected case. Three cases have been reported from Kerala, One in national capital Delhi. The suspected case is a man who was admitted to a Hyderabad hospital after showing Monkeypox like symptoms. 

Amid another outbreak and a pandemic, speculations have been made whether Smallpox and Chickenpox type disease is a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD). WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated that the disease has only been reported from among men who have sex with men, especially those with multiple sexual partners.

He further stated, “It’s therefore essential that all countries work closely with communities of men who have sex with men, to design and deliver effective information and services, and to adopt measures that protect the health, human rights and dignity of affected communities."

Cautioning against stigma and discrimination, the WHO chief said, “Stigma and discrimination can be as dangerous as any virus". Over 16,000 cases from around 75 countries have been recorded so far.

However, its has not been clearly established if Monkeypox is only a sexually transmitted disease. 

What is Monkeypox

Monkeypox is a viral zoonotic disease with symptoms similar to smallpox, although with less clinical severity. The virus is a part of the family of variola virus, which belongs to the genus Orthopoxvirus, the virus which results in causing small pox.

How does Monkeypox spread from animals to human

This Monkeypox virus can pass on to humans if they get bitten by a monkeypox infected animal or come in contact with the infected animal’s blood, body fluids or fur. Consuming the meat of the diseased animal without properly cooking it might also lead to the spread of this infection.

Is Monkeypox a sexually transmitted disease

Experts say the virus spreads through close contact, including sexual acts like kissing, touching, oral, and penetrative vaginal or anal sex with a symptomatic partner. It is not yet clear if an asymptomatic person can spread the virus.

Essentially the virus spreads by coming in touch with the affected patient's bodily fluids either directly or indirectly. Whether, it is spread only via sex is still not proven by scientists. 

Dr Dhiren Gupta, a senior consultant at Delhi's Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, the spread of the virus is amplified during sexual contact. "This contact can happen during intimate contact including oral, anal and vaginal sex, or touching the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) of a person with monkeypox. Hugging, massages and kissing as well as prolonged face-to-face contact could also lead to contraction of the virus," he told news agency ANI.

Gupta further explained that a person could contract the viral infection if they touched an infected fabrics or objects, bedding, towels, and sex toys. He also told ANI that having multiple or anonymous sex partners may also increase the chances of exposure to monkeypox.

Barrier methods - a condom, for example - may not be effective in stopping the virus, ANI said citing Dr Manoj Sharma - director and senior consultant at Fortis Hospital.

Another expert Dr Deepali Bharadwaj - a senior dermatologist - told ANI 'monkeypox can spread by sex, the touch of all sorts hence strict isolation is the key'. She stressed on the use of face masks, hand hygiene, and social distancing.

Symptoms of Monkeypox

Some of the symptoms of the monkeypox virus are

Fever

Headache

Muscle pain

Exhaustion

Swollen lymph nodes

Later people develop rashes on their skin which often begin to appear on their face and then spread to the other body parts. The rashes keep spreading until they form a scab and shed off. This disease lasts for a period of two to four weeks

 

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