Since the first case of monkeypox (monkeypox) was reported in the UK three months ago, more than 27,000 people have been diagnosed with the disease worldwide. With the increase in cases, doubts also grew – on social networks, false and inaccurate information has already begun to circulate. Public health experts believe that misinformation and stigma around the disease hinder coping.
“Stigmatization gets in the way of everything because it goes against people’s lives. These patients need to be welcomed, protected and have access to treatment”, says infectious disease specialist José David Urbaez Brito, president of the Federal District Infectious Diseases Society.
In order to clarify these doubts, the metropolises explains four myths on the subject:
Myth 1: “Only gay and bisexual men are at risk of catching the disease”
Anyone who lives in or has close contact with a patient with sores or blisters caused by the virus is at risk of becoming infected. This includes relatives, romantic and sexual partners, and healthcare professionals, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
The president of the Sociedade de Infectologia do Distrito Federal explains that the beginning of the transmission of the disease coincided with major events of the gay pride calendar, and the virus found in the agglomerations the perfect environment to spread.
“This group of people, due to one circumstance, was at greater risk. It could have been at Carnival. Many factors made the virus find a more efficient way of transmission. This is not to say that it has anything to do with sexual orientation,” he says.
Myth 2: “The virus is not transmitted through the air, so I don’t need to do isolation”
Isolation is part of the measures to contain the outbreak. According to Urbaez, the patient should be quarantined for about 21 days (three weeks) or until all the lesions are completely healed and without scabs.
Myth 3: “The virus is transmitted like HIV”
Although the monkeypox virus has already been found in a semen sample, it is not yet proven whether transmission can occur through contact with sperm or vaginal fluids. Still, the World Health Organization (WHO) considers the disease to be a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Contagion mainly occurs when there is close contact (which happens through kissing, hugging, oral or penetrative sexual intercourse) with fluids from the wounds and blisters of an infected patient. Other transmission routes are the sharing of objects and surfaces.
Myth 4: “Monkey smallpox has a high risk of death”
Although the disease can cause serious conditions – with intense pain caused by skin lesions, involvement of the rectal mucosa and permanent scars throughout the body – the mortality rate from monkeypox infection is below 1%.
“Fortunately, the disease has a very low lethality. In some African countries, lethality is higher due to the lack of access to diagnosis and treatment, a situation completely different from our reality”, says Urbaez.
People with compromised immune systems, newborns and young children are at risk of developing more severe symptoms when they become infected.
“In the past, between 1% to 10% of people with monkeypox died. It is important to note that mortality rates in different contexts may differ due to a number of factors, such as access to health care,” the WHO said in a statement.
According to platform Our World In Data, around 27,000 cases and nine deaths were recorded worldwide between the beginning of May and this Thursday (4/8). In most cases, symptoms progress and disappear on their own within a few weeks.
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