Can you get monkeypox from a toilet seat, or by trying on clothes at a thrift store? Is the virus spread through body fluids? Can you pass it on to your pets?
Search for “monkeypox” on social media, and these are the kinds of questions you’ll find on the Internet.
Several months after the unprecedented outbreak of monkeypox, platforms like Instagram, Twitter and TikTok are rife with exciting posts about how this virus is transmitted, raising potential concerns that people could catch it in their daily lives, even when the data is highly suggestive. to sexual intercourse between men as a primary driver of global transmission.
One analysis of monkeypox-related posts on Twitter, which was Posted in June as a letter to the editor In the Journal of Infection in Developing Countries, it found that more than half of the publications contained misinformation or unverifiable details.
“There is a big difference between what is possible, what is likely, and what actually happens,” said Lynn Tooley, director of evaluation at the Center for Community Research, a homeopathic health policy organization, and one of the first people to catch monkeypox in Toronto.
“What we’re actually seeing happening is that mostly gay and bisexual men get monkeypox. Most of them get it sexually…so if you don’t fall into one of those two categories, you probably don’t have much to worry about.”
While there are still major unanswered questions about the exact ways this virus spreads between hosts, data shows The bulk of the infection remains among men who have sex with men Making it critical, scientists say, to prioritize vaccines and limited support for gays, bisexuals and transgender people, who are most likely to develop a painful illness that lasts for weeks.
“We know that sexual transmission in men who have sex with men is an important mechanism of spread and contributes significantly to the ongoing outbreak,” said physician and researcher Dr. Bogoma Titangi, assistant professor at Emory University in Atlanta. “However, it is not the only method of transmission.”
So here’s what global researchers know – and don’t know – about how this virus is transmitted.
How is monkeypox spread through sex?
Prior to this year’s global outbreak, scientists commonly believed that monkeypox virus, or MPXV, primarily reached humans through contact with infected animals, resulting in transmission at home and limited spread in areas of West and Central Africa where this pathogen is endemic.
But Titanji said there are hints that MPXV is spreading through sexual networks as well Nigerian scientists sound alarms during nationwide outbreaks in 2017 Which greatly affected sexually active young men, often causing injuries to the genitals.
“It is therefore possible that monkeypox was also spread through sexual contact and was transmitted without radar, finding its way into densely interconnected sexual networks that allowed it to be amplified,” Titange said.
In Canada, this disease Mostly mentioned among men who have sex with menand 99 percent of affected individuals are males with an average age of 36.
Among the cases of monkeypox in the United States with available data99 percent also occurred in men, including 94 percent who reported recent male-to-male sexual contact or close intimate contact.
Extensive European data also indicates that cases are still primarily among men who have sex with men between the ages of 18 and 50. According to the latest risk assessment of the European Center for Disease Prevention and ControlHowever, the probability of MPXV spreading more in networks of people with multiple sexual partners is ‘high’, while the chance of it spreading to the wider population is ‘very low’.
Understanding these transmission patterns is key to knowing where to direct limited supplies, including vaccines, said Angela Rasmussen, a virologist with the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Organization.
“It makes sense to distribute this vaccine to those most at risk,” she said. “People who have sex with men, people who have multiple partners, people who have had sex recently.”
Does it only spread through skin contact? Or bodily fluids?
When it comes to sexual transmission, what’s less clear is whether it’s primarily related to skin contact, or if bodily fluids also play a major role.
“One of the unknowns is to what extent – and for how long – this can be transmitted through semen,” said Toronto-based infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogosh.
As noted by the Public Health Organization of Ontario in its August Brief of EvidenceThere is no clear evidence yet of genital secretions as a ‘distinct route of transmission’ along with direct intimate contact.
Several recent case studies analyzing human semen during active infection have reported finding monkeypox DNA, which has been identified in other body fluids as well.
Other research suggests that people can carry the virus without showing any obvious symptoms, such as physical or genital lesions. recent study It was performed in France, and 13 out of 200 individuals tested positive for MPXV at the time of an anal swab to find other possible infection – even though they were not asymptomatic.
“Whether this indicates viral shedding that could lead to transmission is unknown,” the researchers wrote.
Watch | What does recovery from monkeypox look like:
Can you catch this virus from surfaces, bedding or clothing?
Monkeypox has a knack for surviving on contaminated items, such as an infected person’s clothing or bedding. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that someone else will get it.
In one study, researchers found a live virus 15 days after the patient’s home was empty. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated in mid-July.
Studies also show that other closely related viruses can live in a family-like environment for weeks or months, according to the CDC statement, with porous objects, such as bedding and clothing, potentially harboring live viruses for longer periods than non-porous surfaces, such as glass. or metal.
Therefore, in theory, this virus can be transmitted by touching various objects, or through close non-sexual contact.
There are concrete examples of transmission in the home to children and possibly pets, including One case study in France The two men who contracted MPXV may have given it to their dog who was sleeping in their bed.
But if this virus spread easily through surface transmission, “we would have seen a much larger outbreak a long time ago,” Bogoch said.
“I think it’s quite an exaggeration that we should be concerned about touching a non-living object, such as a doorknob when entering a place, a motorcycle, or washing every item we get from the grocery store,” he said. “I think this is clearly premature.”
Dr. Zane Chagla, an infectious disease specialist at McMaster University in Hamilton, agreed that global data on cases during monkeypox outbreaks shows that infections usually do not “suddenly appear”.
“And a little bit of it doesn’t actually lead to sustained transmission,” he said.
However, Chagla said there is an advantage in taking some precautions, especially in healthcare settings and families where a family member has an active infection.
If someone in the house has monkeypox, The CDC suggests Clean and disinfect the entire space, putting all contaminated clothing and linens into the wash and – if the person doing the job is not the one who is infected, they should at least wear medical gloves and a respirator or a well-fitting mask.
What about transmission over the air?
Like many other common viruses, including those that cause influenza and COVID-19, MPXV can spread through the air and infect other people — although many scientists don’t yet see evidence that it’s a major transmission route.
“You can still transmit infection through droplets and aerosols,” Tetanji said, referring to the larger and smaller sizes of particles that people can inhale or inhale.
“But the last two modes of transmission I just listed appear to be less frequent than the predominant method of sexual transmission.”
The World Health Organization maintains Transmission through respiratory particles “usually requires prolonged face-to-face contact,” putting health workers, family members and other contacts of active cases at greater risk of infection.
“If people get monkeypox … by inhaling it and inhaling it, we will see a lot of people who are not men having sex with men who get monkeypox,” Rasmussen said.
As for the misinformation circulating online, which means the general public can easily be infected with this virus, Toile said some of it may come from a place of stigma or just fear.
“I hope all these people who are afraid of getting monkeypox are advocating for services for those who get monkeypox,” he said.
“Because if it continues to spread to other populations, we want to make sure the health care system is ready.”