As the number of cases of monkeypox among men who have sex with men increased, the World Health Organization issued a warning on Wednesday to restrict exposure to the virus by lowering the number of sex partners and evaluating sex with new partners.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, encouraged men to consider minimising their sexual partners for a while and sharing contact information with any new partners to allow for follow-up if necessary.
“Although 98 per cent of cases so far are among men who have sex with men, anyone exposed can get monkeypox, which is why WHO recommends that countries take action to reduce the risk of transmission to other vulnerable groups, including children, pregnant women and those who are immunosuppressed,” he added.
While Tedros stated that all governments must engage and empower communities of men who have sex with men to lower the danger of infection and transmission, he also advised states to protect human rights.
“The stigma and discrimination can be as dangerous as any virus,” he said.
Tedros further said that the monkeypox outbreak can be stopped, if the world takes the risks seriously.
Over 18,000 cases have now been reported to WHO from 78 countries, with more than 70 per cent of cases reported from Europe. So far, five deaths have been reported and about 10 per cent of monkeypox cases have been hospitalized.
“This is an outbreak that can be stopped, if countries, communities and individuals inform themselves, take the risks seriously, and take the steps needed to stop transmission and protect vulnerable groups,” Tedros said during a press briefing.
“The best way to do that is to reduce the risk of exposure. That means making safe choices for yourself and others,” he added.
According to Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, a CDC expert working on the monkeypox response, monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted illness, although persons who tested positive in the US had some amount of sexual activity. According to CNN, this can entail both penetrative encounters and oral sex.
The virus is mostly transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, but it can also be transferred through touching things such as sheets or towels that may have been used by someone with monkeypox, as well as through close face-to-face interactions such as kissing.
According to the CDC, the researchers are investigating whether the virus can be spread by someone who has no symptoms or through semen, vaginal fluids and faecal matter. CDC further said that condoms alone cannot protect against the spread of monkeypox.
However, the agency still emphasizes that condoms can prevent other sexually transmitted infections.
“Reducing your number of sexual partners may reduce your risk,” one of the WHO flyers reads as CNN reported.
“How can I protect myself?” another said adding, “To catch monkeypox, you need skin-to-skin contact, including during sex, with someone infectious or their contaminated belongings. To reduce the risk of contracting monkeypox: practice safer sex, keep your hands clean.”