Author: Sara Habibipour
Mamma mia, here we go again.
That’s probably what a lot of you are thinking after you heard the news of the 2022 monkeypox outbreak. I’ve personally noticed a lot of fear and stigma rising on the Internet regarding monkeypox. However, this arises largely due to misinformation and people who simply do not know what they’re talking about. So, let’s take a moment to understand the basics of monkeypox and bust any myths you may have heard (or believe).
Myth #1: Monkeypox is a new virus
With the name “monkeypox” you may think that the virus comes from monkeys, but that’s actually false. Its exact reservoir is unknown, but it has been identified in several rodent populations. It’s given its name because the virus was first identified in crab-eating macaques in 1958. It wasn’t actually until 1970 that a human had contracted monkeypox.
There have been several previous outbreaks of monkeypox. To name a few, in 1971 there was an outbreak in Nigeria, in 2018-19 a very small outbreak made its way to Singapore, the UK, and Israel, and in 2003 there was a small outbreak in the United States due to infected guinea pigs. Monkeypox occurs more frequently in west and central African countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Gabon, Central African Republic, and Liberia.
As a result, a lot of information already exists about this virus, including a vaccine (also used for smallpox).
Myth #2: Monkeypox is an STI
Monkeypox spreads through close skin-to-skin contact with an infected individual. One example of close skin-to-skin contact is sexual intercourse. However, this is not the only means of close contact. Other close contact includes hugging, kissing, and sharing clothing/bed sheets with someone who has lesions. Although lesions can appear on genitals, this still does not make it an STI.
Myth #3: Monkeypox only affects gay men
Although monkeypox cases have disproportionately affected men who have sex with men, this does not mean that only gay men can get or transmit the disease. ANYONE is able to contract monkeypox. Although there is this correlation doesn’t mean that it is community-specific.
Myth #4: Monkeypox is going to be the next COVID-19
Although monkeypox needs to be handled seriously, it is very different from COVID-19. Unlike COVID-19, it is not a respiratory illness. Although it can be contracted from inhaling someone’s respiratory droplets, you need to be in very close, intimate contact with that person, as it doesn’t linger in the air as long as COVID-19. Contracting monkeypox is not as easy as contracting COVID-19. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s not concerning.