Monkeypox — a cousin of smallpox — is not technically considered a sexually transmitted infection. But it spreads through close contact and is now being transmitted largely through networks of men who have sex with men. Although anyone can get infected, most of the people affected reported some level of sexual activity. This includes penetrative encounters as well as oral sex.
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Although the virus is theoretically transmitted through respiratory droplets, the CDC has not seen that happen in this outbreak.
Instead, it’s longer contact that seems to be responsible for most cases now.
Researchers are also investigating whether the virus can be spread by someone who has no symptoms, or through semen, vaginal fluids and fecal matter, according to the CDC.
While dancing shirtless at a party that has good ventilation (without interacting with someone who has visible lesions) may be low-risk, enclosed spaces such as back rooms, saunas or sex clubs, or at sex parties where there’s often anonymous contact with multiple partners; increases the likelihood of monkeypox spreading.
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“Socializing is a part of what [LGBTQ people] do. So I don’t think that it’s something that we stop. It’s just sort of important to have awareness how monkeypox transmits and you’re aware of your own risk and how to mitigate that risk,” Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, director of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, says.
The most recent data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows 1,972 probable or confirmed monkeypox cases in the US and about 13,340 around the world. This has doctors concerned that the epidemic may have grown too large and diffuse for them to contain.
Dr. Shira Heisler, medical director of the Detroit Public Health STD Clinic, says she’s proud of the quality of care she provides but simply doesn’t have time to see every patient who needs care. “We just don’t have the bodies,” she says. “It’s a total infrastructure collapse.”
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Why clinics are struggling
Clinics that treat sexually transmitted diseases — already struggling to contain an explosive increase in infections such as syphilis and gonorrhea — now find themselves on the front lines in the nation’s fight to control the rapidly growing monkeypox outbreak.
After decades of underfunding and 2½ years into a pandemic that severely disrupted care, clinic staffers and public health officials say the clinics are ill-equipped for yet another epidemic.
“America does not have what it needs to adequately