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Monkeypox Misleadingly Linked To Homosexual Males

Dina Faisal Dina Faisal
21st May 2022
Monkeypox Misleadingly Linked To Homosexual Males
Monkeypox is not exclusively passed on from homosexual men (Getty).

The Claim

 Monkeypox is linked to homosexual men.

Emerging story

Following health agencies reports that monkeypox victims were predominantly gay and bisexual men, social media users understood that monkeypox is spread by homosexual men. Some users also implied that the disease does not infect heterosexuals.

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Misbar’s Analysis

Misbar’s team investigated the claim and found it to be misleading. Based on the definition of monkeypox as a viral zoonotic disease, it is not solely transmitted by homosexual men. The multiple ways of transmission also confirm that infection is not exclusive to homosexual males.

Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 amongst research monkeys, with the first human case reported in 1970 in Congo. Monkeypox often starts with symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and exhaustion. Following the fevers, monkeypox can also cause rash and skin lesions until scabs are formed and they fall off, the illness typically lasts for 2-4 weeks. There are several transmission methods where a person comes into contact with the virus including from animal to human and human to human. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “the virus enters the body through broken skin (even if not visible), respiratory tract, or the mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth).” The whole excerpt from the CDC website can be seen below.

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Photo Description: CDC website on how Monkeypox is transmitted.

Respiratory droplets necessitated "prolonged face-to-face contact because the droplets cannot travel far." Other modes of transmission include direct contact with bodily fluids, such as sexual contact or the exchange of blood or saliva, and indirect contact with lesion material, such as through contaminated clothing or linens." This demonstrates that the disease can infect or infect anyone.

Link to Homosexual Men

At first, reports from health and news agencies stated that the majority of those infected were gay and bisexual men. This news made headlines and sparked speculation. However, the health agencies simply mentioned this as a warning to other gay men to be aware of any symptoms, including rashes and lesions, without implying that they were the cause or that they were the only ones infected.

Furthermore, the cases were mostly linked to super spreader events in Belgium's gay community. It was also linked to gay adult saunas in Spain. This could explain why this community has a higher prevalence.

Monkeypox in Central and West Africa
Given that monkeypox is a zoonotic disease that was first discovered in monkeys, it is most prevalent in tropical rainforest regions of Central and West Africa, such as Congo, which has been dealing with the disease for decades. In 18 of the country's provinces, 58 people have died and 1200 have been infected this year alone.

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"Monkeypox is not a gay disease," says Dr. Boghuma Kabisen Titanji, an infectious disease physician and virologist at Emory University in Atlanta. "Nor are any other infectious diseases." She added that "stigma directed at a specific group of people fuels fear and seriously impedes outbreak investigation, case identification, and public health interventions." Dr. Titanji compares it to the stigmatization of HIV as a gay disease and its consequences, noting that "cases were under-reported in the early days of the epidemic as individuals who contracted the virus went underground rather than seeking medical care." As a result, "opportunities to understand the disease and provide targeted public health interventions to curb its spread" were missed. 

According to the WHO, "It is never acceptable to stigmatize groups of people because of a disease. It can be a barrier to ending an outbreak because it prevents people from seeking care and allows the disease to spread undetectedly."
Recent Cases

Over 140 cases have been reported so far in 12 countries across North America, Europe, and Oceania, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, Italy, and the Netherlands. Because monkeypox and smallpox are so similar, the smallpox vaccine can provide significant protection against monkeypox. Experts estimate that "more than 70% of people worldwide have no immunity to monkeypox" because they were never vaccinated for smallpox.

Misbar's team confirms that the claim is misleading; monkeypox is a zoonotic virus and is not passed on exclusively by homosexual men. Anyone in close contact with an infected person can get it, regardless of sexual orientation.

Misbar’s Classification


Misbar’s Sources

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