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New study finds monkeypox spread during ‘cluster events’ and sexual activity

Test tubes labelled ‘Monkeypox virus positive and negative’ are seen in this illustration taken May 23, 2022. File picture: Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Test tubes labelled ‘Monkeypox virus positive and negative’ are seen in this illustration taken May 23, 2022. File picture: Dado Ruvic/Illustration

Published Jul 25, 2022

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Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease, however, a new study involving more than 500 cases across the globe found that 95% of transmission was suspected to have occurred through sexual activity.

Data was collected from five continents over two months and is the largest case report of monkeypox to date.

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The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this week. It examined 528 cases of confirmed human monkeypox infection from 16 countries.

Led by scientists at Queen Mary University of London, they found that the current spread has disproportionately affected men who are bisexual and men who have sex with men.

“Although the current outbreak is disproportionately affecting gay or bisexual men and other men who have sex with men, monkeypox is no more a ‘gay disease’ than it is an ‘African disease’. It can affect anyone. We identified nine heterosexual men with monkeypox,” said authors in the study.

The median age of the persons in the study was 38 years, and 75% were white. Overall, 98% of the persons with infection were bisexual men or men who have sex with men.

“Reports of clusters associated with sex parties or saunas further underscore the potential role of sexual contact as a promoter of transmission.

“International travel and attendance at large gatherings linked to sex-onsite activities may explain the global spread of monkeypox infections amplified through sexual networks,” according to the study.

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the monkeypox virus is transmitted from one person to another by close contact with lesions, body fluids, lesions and respiratory droplets.

Findings from the study revealed that the lesions were primarily located around the genitals, the anal, and oral mucosal areas. This indicates the strong likelihood of sexual transmission.

More than 14 000 cases have been recorded this year from 71 countries globally.

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Skin lesions were the most commonly reported symptom in the study and was found in 95% of cases. The most common anatomical sites were the anogenital area, the trunk, arms, and the face.

Other common symptoms included fever in 62% of cases, lethargy in 41%, muscle aches in 31% and headaches in 27%.

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