GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization on Wednesday advised men at risk of catching monkeypox to consider reducing their sexual partners “for the moment” following the U.N. health agency declaring the escalating outbreaks in multiple countries to be a global emergency.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General, stated that 98% of monkeypox outbreaks since May were among homosexuals and bisexuals. He advised those in danger to take preventive measures.
“That means making safe choices for yourself and others, for men who have sex with men,” Tedros said. “This includes, for the moment, reducing your number of sexual partners.”
The WHO chief advised that infected individuals be isolated and avoided gatherings with close physical contact. People should also get the contact information for new partners, just in case.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have not recommended that men have sex only with male partners. They suggest that they limit skin-to-skin contacts with persons with a rash, such as monkeypox.
Learn More: This is the best way to stop Monkeypox spreading.
WHO officials stressed the fact that monkeypox is easily transmitted to anyone who has come into contact with patients or their contaminated clothes or bedding. According to the U.N., monkeypox could infect more vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and children.
More than 19,000 deaths have been recorded in 75 countries to date.
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“We know very clearly that one of the main modes of exposure for this particular illness is through direct contact, close contact, skin to skin contact, possibly even face to face contact, exposure to droplets or virus that may be in the mouth,” Dr. Rosamund Lewis, WHO’s technical lead for monkeypox, said.
Andy Seale, a WHO adviser on HIV, hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections, said experts have determined the current monkeypox outbreak is “clearly transmitted during sex,” but he said they have not yet concluded whether it’s a sexually transmitted infection.
Hugh Adler from the U.K. who is treating monkeypox suffers, stated that monkeypox could be transmitted by sex. That sexual networks, anonymous sex and untraceable partners are facilitating its spread.
Learn More: Why It’s Way Harder to Get Tested for Monkeypox Than It Should Be
“It’s just as likely that monkeypox was always capable of transmitting and presenting like this, but it hadn’t been formally reported or so widespread before,” he said.
British officials issued new guidance last week advising doctors that patients with only one or two lesion might become infected with monkeypox. This could complicate efforts to prevent transmission.
The European Union’s health commissioner urged the bloc’s 27 member nations Wednesday to step up their efforts to tackle outbreaks in the EU, which she called “the epicenter of detected cases.”
In a letter to European health ministers obtained by The Associated Press, EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides called for a “reinforced, concerted and coordinated action.”
“There is no time for complacency and we need to continue working together to control the outbreak,” she wrote.
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