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MYTH: Monkeypox is a newly discovered virus.

FACT: Monkeypox is a disease that is caused by the monkeypox virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), monkeypox was discovered in 1958 during an outbreak of a pox-like disease among colonies of monkeys. The first case of monkeypox in humans was recorded in 1970.

MYTH: Monkeypox originated from monkeys.

FACT: While the virus was initially discovered among colonies of monkeys, the source of the virus remains unknown. 

MYTH: Monkey and chickenpox are related.

FACT: Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox. The monkeypox virus is in the same family of viruses as the variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox. Monkeypox causes symptoms similar to those produced by smallpox, although monkeypox symptoms are generally milder.

MYTH: Monkeypox can only be spread during male-to-male sex.

FACT: Monkeypox can be spread during male-to-male sex, but is spread in other ways as well. Monkeypox is generally spread through close and direct contact with another person who is infected with monkeypox. Direct face-to-face contact, intimate contact, contact with rashes, scabs, and bodily fluids, or touching surfaces used by an infected person can promote the spread of monkeypox. Monkeypox can also be spread during pregnancy from a pregnant person to the fetus via the placenta, if an infected animal scratches or bites a human, or the meat of an infected animal is prepared or consumed.

MYTH: I can’t contract monkeypox at social gatherings or events like clubs, parties, or raves.

FACT: Because monkeypox is transmitted through close and direct contact with an infected person, there is some risk of contracting monkeypox during social gatherings or events, like raves, clubs, or parties, when people are generally gathering in close proximity to one another. At social gatherings where attendees are fully clothed (i.e. there is minimal skin exposure), there is generally a lower risk of monkeypox transmission.

MYTH: There are no treatments available for monkeypox.

FACT: Antivirals used to treat smallpox are being used to treat monkeypox, because of the genetic similarities between the two diseases. Because data supporting the use of antivirals in the setting of monkeypox is limited, additional research is needed to determine the effectiveness of antivirals to treat this condition.

Vaccination is an effective way to prevent monkeypox infection.

In the United States, 2 vaccines are available, although vaccine supplies are limited and the criteria for vaccination is evolving as we discover the prevalence of the disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who have been identified as a contact of someone with monkeypox and people who may have been exposed to monkeypox are eligible for vaccination. To determine your eligibility for monkeypox vaccination, contact your local health provider or local health department.

For further information about monkeypox vaccination considerations, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.

Jerome Chelliah, MD, MPH

Dr. Jerome Chelliah is a board-certified OBGYN with a focus on menopause, sexual health, and minimally-invasive procedures. He is a graduate of the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine (M.D.) and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (MPH). He has held physician leadership roles at the Cleveland Clinic and Kaiser Permanente. He has published and presented at numerous national conferences including American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), Association of Professors of Gynecology and Obstetrics (APGO), The National Futures Without Violence Annual Meeting, and The American Geriatric Association. He serves on the board of several Femtech companies including Ava Women, Prenome, and Medicem. Dr. Chelliah is grounded in his mission to provide culturally sensitive, cutting-edge women’s health care while raising visibility and improving research in sexual and postmenopausal health.

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