Getting the right information is crucial in health, but the presence of an infectious disease in a community has a way of fueling misinformation like wildfire. And in larger outbreaks, like the monkeypox outbreak of 2022 which is now officially aspreading false information can be dangerous.
Although monkeypox is not a new disease, there are aspects of this outbreak that set it apart from previous cases. With that, there are several things we know to be true about how this disease behaves overall.
These are some common monkeypox myths, debunked.
Myth: Only homosexuals are at risk for monkeypox
While it is true that the majority of people with monkeypox at present areanyone can get monkeypox, regardless of sexual orientation, age, gender, or any other demographic you can throw at the disease.
The reason this is primarily affecting gay men right now is because, in an unusual move, monkeypox is currently being spread primarily through sexual contact. Since people who have sex with men have physical contact or intimacy with other gay or bisexual men, the disease has so far been primarily detected and contained within this community.
But cases have been reported in other demographic groups, including women and children. Monkeypox can spread to anyone in close contact with someone infected with monkeypox, such as someone who lives with them. And health officials fear the shame could deter people from seeking the care they need, including treatments or vaccines if they are exposed. The misguided belief that only gay men can get monkeypox could also lead us to ignore the spread of the disease in other communities, which can make the outbreak harder to contain.
Myth: Monkeypox is easy to catch
Unlike a respiratory virus that spreads relatively easily in a room full of people who aren’t touching each other (like COVID-19), monkeypox requires close physical Contact to spread. That is, someone usually has to be in direct contact with someone with symptoms of monkeypox to catch it, or in direct contact with their clothing or another fabric or surface affected by a monkeypox rash. Examples of people who could be exposed to monkeypox if you had it were your sex partner…or the roommate you share a towel with every day.
The virus that causes monkeypox can survive on surfaces, however, especially in dark, cool and low-humidity environments, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For this reason, it could be theoretically possible that someone could catch monkeypox from a contaminated surface, but the current likelihood of this remains low. This could be part of the reason why the amount of virus the person is exposed to plays a role in their infection (sharing a bed every night for a week with someone with monkeypox would be much more exposed than touching an audience surface once, for example). According to the CDC, direct, skin-to-skin contact, including sexual contact, is the primary way people have been exposed to monkeypox during this outbreak.
“This is not a situation where if you run into someone in a grocery store, they’re at risk of contracting monkeypox,” said Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, associate director of the Centers’ Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathologies. for Disease Control and Prevention. , said during a May briefing with the CDC.
Myth: Monkeypox is a new disease
In short: No. Several African countries have been battling monkeypox for years, and the disease is endemic in some areas (in other words, it circulates year-round in an area). The first human case of monkeypox was detected in the 1970s, and there was a small outbreak (47 cases) in the United States in 2003 linked to imported prairie dogs. Prior to the 2022 outbreak, most cases of monkeypox were found in rural and remote areas and were linked to direct contact with animals that could spread the disease.
Another thing that sets this outbreak apart is that cases of monkeypox are spreading in countries where it is not normally found unrelated to international travel (such as the United States, Canada, and some European countries). It is also spread mainly through intimate contact and is detected in adult males. More cases in previous outbreaks were in children, and human-to-human transmission was lower.
The current monkeypox outbreak may be linked to a case detected by a Nigerian infectious disease doctor in 2017, NPR reported. Dr. Dimie Ogoina identified a case with features that more closely resemble monkeypox now. Ogoina then noticed that the epidemic in Nigeria had spread between men with a link to sexual contact, as opposed to the increase in cases among children who are more at risk of serious illness (and who have been generally affected in monkeypox endemic countries). His and his teammates’ warnings to the broader medical community may have fallen on deaf ears as the outbreak spread beyond Nigeria, the report said.
Myth: Monkeypox is causing another US lockdown
The Biden administration has declared national monkeypoxAugust 4. The federal decision is meant to open up more money and funding for resources, including vaccines and testing, and encourage more information sharing between local, state and federal levels. However, that doesn’t mean states or cities will issue stay-at-home orders like they did for COVID-19 before vaccines and treatments are available. Unlike monkeypox, COVID-19 was a completely new virus that continues to spread easily between people who may have mild or no symptoms.
Myth: There is no treatment for monkeypox available
In 2019, the United States Food and Drug Administration approved Jynneos, a vaccine for the prevention of monkeypox and smallpox for those most at risk of contracting these diseases. This vaccine is now given to those most at risk of catching monkeypox, although the rollout has beenand appointments have been hard to come by for many.
There is also another smallpox vaccine that can also be used against monkeypox called ACAM2000. However, this is an older live virus vaccine that is not safe for all people, including immunocompromised people and people with certain skin conditions such as eczema. Treatments that have been used to treat smallpox are also thought to work against monkeypox. While most people will be able to recover from monkeypox at home without medical intervention, some people at higher risk of serious illness, such as immunocompromised people, may be prescribed an antiviral.
The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.