WHO director-general says men who have sex with men should reduce number of sexual partners amid monkeypox outbreak

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World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday advised that men who have sex with men adjust how they go about sexual encounters amid the monkeypox outbreak, recommending that they reduce their number of sexual partners and reconsider initiating sex with new partners.

During a briefing, Tedros stated more than 18,000 monkeypox cases have been reported globally, with the majority in Europe. Five deaths have been reported so far, and about 10 percent of cases have been admitted to hospitals for pain management.

He stressed that the outbreak can be stopped if countries take the virus seriously and take steps to reduce the risk of infection.

“For men who have sex with men, this includes, for the moment, reducing your number of sexual partners, reconsidering sex with new partners and exchanging contact details with any new partners to enable follow-up if needed,” said Tedros.

Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease and can spread through any prolonged skin-to-skin contact as well as through contaminated linens and bedding.

Currently, the virus is spreading through the social networks of men who have sex with men.

Tedros warned that “stigma and discrimination can be as dangerous as any virus and can fuel the outbreak” and cautioned people to be aware of misinformation and disinformation about the virus.

“Although 98 percent of cases so far are among men who have sex with men, anyone exposed can get monkeypox, which is why WHO recommends that countries take action to reduce the risk of transmission to other vulnerable groups, including children, pregnant women and those who are immunosuppressed,” he said.

Several countries, including the U.S., have begun distributing and administering smallpox vaccines believed to be effective against monkeypox to help mitigate the spread. The WHO head noted that data on smallpox vaccine effectiveness for monkeypox is still lacking and recommended a targeted approach to immunization.

Tedros also noted that vaccines are not immediately effective and can take several weeks to offer protection.

“That means those vaccinated should continue to take measures to protect themselves by avoiding close contact, including sex, with others who have or are at risk of having monkeypox,” he said.

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