September 26, 2022
Is monkeypox a sexually transmitted infection?

As of June 8, 1,177 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed, with Europe being the worst affected with 704 cases, as per the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Monkeypox cases have been detected in 18 countries in Europe, mainly in the U.K., Spain and Portugal. The U.S. has confirmed 45 cases of monkeypox virus cases as of June 9.

Most of the cases reported so far have been in men who have sex with men and bisexual men. However, the risk of monkeypox virus is not restricted to men who have sex with men. “People who closely interact with someone who is infectious, including health workers, household members and sexual partners are at greater risk for infection, the World Health Organization (WHO) says. “You can catch monkeypox if you have close physical contact with someone who is showing symptoms. This includes touching and being face-to-face. Monkeypox can spread through close skin-to-skin contact during sex, including kissing, touching, oral and penetrative sex with someone who has symptoms.”

The WHO also stresses that it is currently not clear if monkeypox virus can spread through semen or vaginal fluids. “But direct skin-to-skin contact with lesions during sexual activities can spread the virus. Monkeypox rashes are sometimes found on genitals and in the mouth, which is likely to contribute to transmission during sexual contact. Mouth-to-skin contact could cause transmission where skin or mouth lesions are present,” WHO adds. 

But a study published on June 2 in  Eurosurveillance found the virus in the seminal fluid of four men who tested positive for monkeypox virus. The researchers have ruled out the possibility of sample contamination. Based on the findings, they say, “Although these findings cannot be considered definitive evidence of infectivity, they demonstrate viral shedding whose efficiency in terms of transmission cannot be ruled out.”

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