The World Health Organization (WHO) has sounded its highest level of alarm for monkeypox declaring it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). The virus has spread to nearly 70 countries including India where four cases have been reported so far.
Now, as part of its Science in 5 series for monkeypox on YouTube, WHO has explained which communities are at a higher risk of contracting the virus and why.
According to Andy Seale, adviser, HIV, Hepatitis and STI Programmes, WHO, communities of diverse backgrounds and ages are getting affected by monkeypox in previously affected countries which are largely in West Africa.
Mr Seale added that in the countries which are newly affected by the monkeypox virus, the cases are “largely focussed on men.” Most of the people infected by the virus have been found to be men who have sex with men, and who identify as gay and bisexual, according to Mr Seale.
The adviser added that some cases have also been reported in children and women but those are limited. However, Mr Seale has emphasised that anyone coming in contact with the virus can get infected.
Explaining the reason behind the higher vulnerability of the particular community, Mr Seale said there are several modes for the transmission of the virus. These include skin-to-skin contact, kissing, or touching infected materials like bed linen. “What we know and what the evidence tells us is that sexual networks within communities of gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, have played a role in transmitting the virus in the context of this outbreak,” added Mr Seale.
He added that international travel seemed to have contributed to the spread of the monkeypox virus in the early days of the outbreak.
Mr Seale further appealed that we should not stigmatise or blame any particular community for the spread of the disease. He added that for most monkeypox patients, the infection will be short-lived and mild while it can also be severe for some who may require hospitalisation.