New Delhi [India]: After monkeypox was declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization, concerns have emerged about sexual behaviour considering that the virus can be spread through close contact of any kind, including through kissing, touching, oral and penetrative vaginal or anal sex with someone who has the symptoms.
Rashes, body fluids (such as fluids, pus, or blood from skin lesions), and scabs are particularly infectious, according to the WHO. Ulcers, lesions or sores can also be infectious since the virus can be spread through saliva.
Contact with objects that have been in contact with the infected person – such as clothing, bedding, towels – or objects such as eating utensils could also be a source of infection. Considering the spread through physical contact, there were concerns on whether the physically transmitted disease could affect their sexual lives.
People who have the disease are contagious while they have symptoms (usually within the first two to four weeks).
It is not clear whether or not people who are asymptomatic can transmit the disease.
Dr Dhiren Gupta, Intensivist and Senior Consultant at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital said, “Monkeypox spread gets amplified during sexual contact. This contact can happen during intimate contact including. oral, anal and vaginal sex or touching the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) of a person with monkeypox.
Hugging, massages and kissing as well as prolonged face-to-face contact could also lead to contraction of the virus, said Dr Gupta.
A person can also contract the disease if he touches fabrics and objects during sex that were used by a person with monkeypox and that have not been disinfected, such as bedding, towels, and sex toys.
Having multiple or anonymous sex partners may increase your chances of exposure to monkeypox. Limiting your number of sex partners, says the expert, may reduce the possibility of exposure.
Science is trying to better understand if the virus could be present in semen, vaginal fluids, or other body fluids.
Dr Manoj Sharma, Director, Senior Consultant Internal Medicine. Fortis Hospital Vasant Kunj, said, “Monkeypox spreads through close intimate contact during intercourse. It can spread through oral, vaginal, and anal sex including touching the genitals of an infected person.
Would using a condom help?
“It can spread by hugging, kissing or coming in contact with bedding, clothes or objects used by an infected person so barrier methods like using a condom may not be effective” Dr Sharma added.
Dr Deepali Bhardwaj, Sr Dermatologist said, “Monkeypox can spread by sex, the touch of all sorts hence strict isolation is the key. It’s time to be cautious again and more hygienic of course. It’s the duty of us citizens to ensure that the system collapse and a similar situation doesn’t arise. Strict mask, hand hygiene, social distancing must be maintained and in early symptoms reach out to a doctor as soon as possible should be done besides enhancing immunity in general.”
How can stigma related to same-sex behaviour during the outbreak be avoided?
Messages that stigmatize certain groups of people around this outbreak have been circulating: the WHO has made it clear that this is unacceptable. Anyone who has close physical contact of any kind with someone with Monkeypox is at risk, regardless of who they are, what they do, who they choose to have sex with or any other factor. The WHO points out that it is inadmissible to stigmatize people because of a disease. Anyone who has been infected, or who is helping care for people who are unwell, should be supported: stigma is likely to only make things worse and slow efforts to end the outbreak.
As per a WHO report, the rashes can also resemble some sexually transmitted diseases, such as herpes and syphilis. This may explain why several of the cases in the current outbreak have been identified among men seeking care at sexual health clinics. The risk of becoming infected is not limited to sexually active people or men who have sex with men. Anyone who has close physical contact with someone who is contagious is at risk.