This is misleading. Monkeypox is transmitted via skin-to-skin contact with an infected person's lesions. It is not a sexually transmitted disease.
Just as the world is coming to grips with COVID-19, and interest around the two year long global event teeters off, a new virus has begun making the rounds.
Monkeypox, first discovered in 1958, is a zoonotic disease (transmitted to humans from animals) is now being used as a vehicle for misinformation.
Normally associated with Central and West Africa as an endemic disease, this virus has gone global.
In this multi part fact check, we investigate the various misinformation that is being spread about monkeypox and resolve its veracity.
To better understand the complexities of the emerging virus and provide a clearer picture of it, Faqcheck Lab spoke to molecular virologist Dr Vinod Balasubramaniam, who is also co-lead of Infection and Immunity Research Strength with Malaysia’s Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences. He is part of a team focused on understanding viruses and their impact on human immunity.
Monkeypox the ‘gay disease’?
When cases of monkeypox began sprouting beyond the borders of Central and West African countries, scientists began looking at how it spread.
Monkeypox is transmitted via skin-to-skin contact with someone infected. This may be through direct contact with the lesions that appear on someone infected with the virus, or through bodily fluids during intimate contact between two people including during sex, as well as activities like kissing, cuddling, or touching parts of the body with monkeypox sores. [CDC]
News that cases of monkeypox were concentrated among the LGBTQ+ community began to emerge, and so did claims that the virus was inherently a “gay disease”.
“This is something that is less of a conspiracy theory…” Dr Vinod said, “[and more like] false information or misinformation.”
Health officials in affected countries found that activities with close links to the LGBTQ+ community were transmission vectors for the disease - such as Pride parades, gay bars and the Grindr dating application. [AP, MIC]
Naturally, Dr Vinod explained, those spreading misinformation latched onto reports that the majority of cases in the United Kingdom were among gay men.
But he stressed that monkeypox is primarily transmitted by direct contact with an infected person's lesions. This could take place in a number of ways, including acts of intimacy but regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.
Other methods monkeypox is spread from person-to-person include touching items that have been previously in contact with the infectious rash or body fluids, as well as infected pregnant women spreading the virus to their foetus through the placenta.
“There is no evidence to show that this virus is transmitted through sexual activity or is sexually transmitted. It is not a sexually transmitted infection, in the same manner of HIV,” Dr Vinod concluded.
Xiamen University Malaysia: Siew Tong En, Sean Elijah Tan, Liu Zihan
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University of Nottingham Malaysia: Nathaniel Chan Jia Yoong, Nursarah Mohammad Firdaus Aloysius, Dayana Salim, Farah Aina Azaharuddin, Soh Annjo & Nur Ain Nabila