Monkeypox mainly identified amongst 'men who have sex with men': WHO

An official stressed that monkeypox "is not a gay disease" and that "anybody can contract monkeypox through close contact"

Updated: May 23, 2022 - 6:41pm

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The monkeypox outbreak in Europe and North America may be spreading through sexual contact, and cases have mainly been identified amongst "men who have sex with men," World Health Organization officials said Monday during a livestreamed Q&A.

Andy Seale, a WHO advisor on HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, said the most recent monkeypox outbreak is "not typical" and that medical professionals are seeing cases in "men who identify as gay, bisexual or from other groups of men who have sex with men."

The WHO officials agreed that it is linked to close physical contact, but anyone in close contact can develop the disease; sexual contact is not the sole means of spreading it.

The disease's transmission "could be through social social contact [sic], possibly through sexual contact, which of course is close contact," Seale said. "We're still in the early days of this outbreak so there's a lot we're still learning."

He stressed that monkeypox "is not a gay disease" but said "anybody can contract monkeypox through close contact."

The WHO on Saturday said that "cases have mainly but not exclusively been identified amongst men who have sex with men." 

While monkeypox is normally limited to West and Central Africa, cases have been identified during the most recent outbreak in Europe, Australia, and North America. Around 3-6% of recently reported cases have led to death, the WHO stated.

Belgium became the first country on Monday to introduce a mandatory three-week quarantine for those who have been diagnosed with monkeypox, CNBC reported.