There’s a lot in the news about Monkeypox at the moment, so here’s a quick guide to what it is and how to protect ourselves from it. There’s one (very chill) pic of some symptoms in the article.
Monkeypox is a virus which was originally discovered in 1958, in monkeys. There have been outbreaks in central and western African in the last few years but these have been cases where the outbreaks are from animals to humans.
The reason it’s in the news at the moment is that Monkeypox is spreading via human to human contact, particularly in the UK, home to Bish, but also in other parts of the world.
The virus has only infected a small number of people, so let’s not panic. It’s just good to be aware of what the signs and symptoms are, and what to do about it. This way we can all just keep each other informed and safe. At the moment it seems to be affecting men who have sex with men more than other groups, but not only.
Mostly, it’s not a serious virus, and people will usually recover within 2 to 4 weeks. However, the symptoms aren’t pleasant and in rare cases it can prove fatal. We do have a vaccine for Smallpox which would work for this.
Signs and symptoms
The kinds of symptoms to look out for are:
- Intense headache
- Swelling of the lymph nodes (or glands)
- Back pain
- Muscle aches
- Lack of energy
- Rashes on the face which might spread to the, hands, mouth, or genitals
- Followed by blisters that then fill up, dry out, and fall off
How those blisters are looking in the current UK outbreak. They appear a bit like chickenpox
Public health officials don’t know exactly which symptoms are the most common at the moment but it’s thought that the rashes and blisters are ones to look out for at the moment. Once the blisters have gone, and dried out, then that person is no longer infected.
How is it transmitted?
People think that it’s spread by close personal contact rather than from sexual fluids (though that’s not certain yet). So any kind of sexual or intimate contact might put someone at risk of getting it, even if they are wearing a condom.
Monkeypox is not easily spread between people, but it can be spread by:
- Close skin contact with someone with an outbreak
- Sharing towels or bedding with someone with an outbreak
- Breathing in the droplets of someone with an outbreak.
It could be spread by people who haven’t developed symptoms yet, as it takes 5 to 21 days for them to appear.
So, as you can see, most kinds of in-person sex involve these things (even if it’s not officially an STI).
What to do?
If you think you might have it, in the UK you can call the NHS on 111, or you can call your doctor or local sexual health service. All the sexual health services I’ve seen tweeting about this have said “call us first, don’t come in until we ask you to”.
Find your nearest sexual health service in the UK by clicking here (and also find out what they do and what it’s like to go to them). A key part of the UK’s response to this virus outbreak is to do what is known as ‘contact tracing’ where the brilliant staff at these clinics will try to get in touch with anyone that has had a close contact with someone who is infected. This is all done confidentially. Everything is also free.
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How to talk about it
It’s just good to try and chat with any sexual partners about whether you or they have had any of these symptoms lately, before having sex. Remember, this is still incredibly rare, but it’s just about being sensible. You could just send a simple text with a screenshot of the symptoms and say “hey, just to let you know, I’ve not had any of these lately, how about you?”
If you’re in any doubt, if your immune system is compromised, or can’t have these conversations, you might want to think again about doing stuff in person with people for a bit.
These are just the kinds of precautions we all could be taking all of the time too. Safer sex is not just about STIs, but all of the illnesses, and other harms, that we can be causing. So let’s just be sensible and communicate with each other. There’s more advice about how to talk about safer sex here.
I’ll try and keep this page up to date (but running this website is a very part time job for me at the moment). You might also want to keep an eye on this article at the World Health Organisation, or at the NHS website, or the CDC (for US readers).
Do leave a comment below if you have anything you’d like to add or if you have questions. I moderate all comments before they go live. Click here to ask me a question
© Justin Hancock, 2022
Around 100,000 young people per month get their RSE from BISH. It competes with big media companies selling ads, digital platforms harvesting intimate data for profit, and the right. The only funding I get is via Patreon (and at the moment it’s not even enough for 1 day a week work), can you become a Patron today?
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Justin Hancock has been a trained sex and relationships educator since 1999. In that time he’s taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. He’s a member of the World Association for Sexual Health. Find out more about Justin here