Health

Monkeypox found in three more countries as health officials insist virus is not a ‘gay disease’

Lily Wakefield May 25, 2022
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Monkeypox

Under a microscope magnification of 500X, this image depicted a section of skin tissue, harvested from a lesion on the skin of a monkey, that had been infected with monkeypox virus, 1968. Courtesy CDC. (Smith Collection/ Gado/ Getty)

Monkeypox cases have been found in three more countries, bring the total number of nations where the virus has been detected to 21.

According to the BBC, the Czech Republic and Slovenia reported their first monkeypox cases on Tuesday (24 May), along with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which has become the first Gulf state to detect the virus.

The three countries join 18 others across Europe, America and Australia.

There are now 237 confirmed cases of monkeypox outside of Africa, where the virus is usually found, with 71 of these cases having been found in the UK, at time of writing.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said, however, that while the outbreaks of the rare virus are unusual, the situation is containable.

WHO’s emerging diseases lead Maria Van Kerkhove said on Monday (23 May): “Transmission is really happening from skin-to-skin contact, most of the people who have been identified have had more of a mild disease.”

Monkeypox is in the same family as smallpox, and smallpox vaccines have proved to be effective against it.

In the UK, high-risk close contacts of cases are being offered the vaccine, while Germany has bought up 40,000 doses for if numbers increase.

Early symptoms of monkeypox are flu-like, including fever, headaches, swellings, aching muscles, and exhaustion. The rashes and lesions may start to appear on the face, hands, and feet, before forming a scab which falls off.

This month, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said that queer men have so far been disproportionately affected, although officials are still trying to figure out why.

There is no evidence that the virus is sexually transmitted, however it can be passed on though close human contact, such as touching blood or body fluids or prolonged exposure to the respiratory droplets of an infected person.

In Spain, officials have attributed the majority of monkeypox infections to an outbreak in a Madrid gay sauna, and in Belgium cases have been linked to the Darklands fetish festival which took place from 4-9 May.

But UKHSA staff have warned against thinking of monkeypox as a “gay disease”.

Infectious disease epidemiologist Mateo Prochazka previously told PinkNews: “There is a huge risk of stigma emerging and being attached to the current patterns of transmission we’re seeing for monkeypox, and that will be stigma directed at the infection of gay and bisexual men and sex in general.”

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