Claim: Many Americans believe that monkeypox only affects gay men and anyone who is not gay does not need to worry about the disease.
Rating: This claim is HALF TRUE. The World Health Organization says that a majority of the worldwide cases of monkeypox are caused by sexual contact between gay men. However, since monkeypox is spread through direct contact with infected lesions, non-sexual contact can spread the disease. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anyone “who has been in close, personal contact with someone who has monkeypox is at risk.”
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a disease that is caused by the monkeypox virus, which is in the same family as the smallpox virus. Monkeypox got its name because it was first discovered in monkeys in 1958. The first human case of monkeypox was in 1970. Prior to 2022, monkeypox was mostly concentrated in Central Africa and West Africa. The disease has since spread to dozens of countries around the world. On Aug. 4, the federal government declared monkeypox a public health emergency in the United States.
A monkeypox infection consists of a rash, which looks like pimples or blisters, and it can be itchy and painful. The rash typically lasts two to four weeks. The rash can also be accompanied with flu-like symptoms, such as a fever, chills, muscle aches, headaches, sore throat, and a cough.
The monkeypox rash typically begins 3 weeks after initial exposure to the virus. The rash can turn into blisters or sores. The rash will typically scab over before falling off to expose new skin. Monkeypox is contagious from when symptoms first begin until all the scabs have fallen off.
Has anyone died of monkeypox?
There have been no recorded deaths from monkeypox in the United States. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of Sept. 9, there have been 21,894 cases of monkeypox in the U.S. and the cases have been rising steadily since June. Worldwide, there have been 57,527 cases of monkeypox with 18 deaths, putting the fatality rate of the disease at 0.0003%.
How is monkeypox spread?
Monkeypox is spread by skin-to-skin contact, such as through direct contact with the monkeypox rash or the fluids from those blisters. It can also be spread through close contact with objects handled by people with monkeypox infections. Experts are also currently conducting research to see if monkeypox can be transmitted through semen, vaginal fluids, urine, or feces.
Does monkeypox only affect gay men?
According to the World Health Organization, “the ongoing outbreak of monkeypox continues to primarily affect men who have sex with men who have reported recent sex with one or multiple partners.” But health professionals say that is likely because the virus spreads more easily through sexual contact. It does not mean that monkeypox is a sexually transmitted disease.
Prior to the 2022 outbreak, monkeypox was spread through general skin-to-skin contact, such as hugging or kissing, but the virus spreads more slowly that way. The CDC says that anyone “who has been in close, personal contact with someone who has monkeypox is at risk” of becoming infected. According to CDC data, in the U.S. 27 children and 254 women have become infected with monkeypox since May 2022. Healthcare workers are also at higher risk for contracting monkeypox.
At the same time, the vast majority of people currently infected with monkeypox are men. Many health experts caution against labeling monkeypox as a “gay disease,” because it stigmatizes and shames gay men, which can discourage them from seeking treatment. At the same time, health professionals also say that acknowledging that monkeypox is more easily spread through sex, and cautioning sexually active men to limit their number of partners, is an important way to slow the spread of the virus. And it is an important way to make sure the communities that are most at-risk can protect themselves.
What to do if you’re infected with monkeypox?
The CDC recommends anyone infected with monkeypox to stay home until their skin is healed. If they are living with others, they should sanitize shared surfaces and objects (such as utensils) after every use, and to not share any fabric (such as towels). There is currently no special treatment for monkeypox. Most people with monkeypox recover fully within 2 to 4 weeks without the need for medical treatment.
People who are most at risk for contracting monkeypox, or have been exposed to monkeypox, are encouraged to get vaccinated for monkeypox. The federal government has made the vaccines available for free. Supplies of the vaccine are limited so those who are most at risk for monkeypox are currently being prioritized for vaccination. For more information about how to get vaccines, contact your healthcare provider or your local health department.
Scientists are currently conducting more research into monkeypox. Viet Fact Check will update this article if any information changes.