Boston doctor explains if Monkeypox is an STD – NBC Boston

As cases of monkeypox continue to grow in Massachusetts, so does confusion over whether or not the fast-spreading virus is considered a sexually transmitted disease.

Transmitted by close skin-to-skin contact, monkeypox was first found in monkeys in 1958 before being reported in a human 12 years later in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the majority of infections remained. An international outbreak emerged in the spring and continued to escalate, prompting the WHO to declare the virus a public health emergency of international concern in late July.

Since then, about 134 cases of monkeypox have been confirmed in Massachusetts among nearly 6,000 cases across the country, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Brigham and Women’s infectious disease chief Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes explained why, despite the fact that monkeypox is spread through sexual contact, the virus is not necessarily classified as an STD.

Matt Ford was unable to get a monkeypox vaccination and managed the symptoms of the infection with painkillers. Now that he’s recovered after a three-week battle with the virus, Ford opened up about his experience in an interview with LX News’ Ashley Holt.

Experts have not been able to determine whether monkeypox represents a new type of infection or sexually transmitted disease, although it is mainly spread through skin-to-skin contact during sex.

“It hasn’t been classified as an STI so far, but there’s no doubt that it can be sexually transmitted,” Kuritzkes said. “Monkey pox is not a sexually transmitted infection in the sense that, for example, gonorrhea, chlamydia or syphilis are considered STIs because those are the main routes of transmission, but it can certainly be of a sexually transmitted infection.”

Men who have sex with men are currently the group most at risk of contracting monkeypox, experts say. The World Health Organization recommended in late July that gay and bisexual men limit their number of sexual partners to protect themselves and help slow transmission.

Symptoms include fever, body aches, chills, fatigue, and sores or sores on parts of the body. The disease was relatively mild in many men, and no one died in the United States. But people can be contagious for weeks and the lesions can be extremely painful.

“What the infection does is people burst into these blisters which then open up, and there’s virus in the blisters, and so those blisters can be a source of transmission. The virus can enter at through the attacked skin, just like chickenpox can do.” spread,” Kuritzkes said. “These can be very painful and uncomfortable sores if they occur in the rectum or in the vagina or in the mouth, and can make it difficult to have a bowel movement, to swallow, to urinate, and so that can really be a problem.”

The fact that monkeypox is mainly spread during sex has sparked a debate in the scientific community about whether the case definition should be changed to reflect genital transmission, Kuritzkes said Tuesday after attending a session on the virus. at the International AIDS Conference in Montreal, Canada.

“What I guess we don’t know for sure is whether semen and vaginal fluids themselves can be infectious,” he said.

Experts say it’s also unclear whether condoms would help reduce the risk of infection, as monkeypox is spread through close physical contact, like herpes.

The virus can be treated with an antiviral drug called TPOXX, or tecovirimat, which Kuritzkes said is available for more severe cases in Massachusetts through the National Strategic Stockpile. Vaccinations are also available on a limited basis for people who have had known or likely exposure, he said, but Massachusetts still does not immunize more broadly due to limitations and supply.

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