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WHO advisor says monkeypox outbreak is likely a 'random event' spread by sex at raves in Europe

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Test tube labelled "Monkeypox virus positive" are seen in this illustration taken May 22, 2022.
Dado Ruvic/Reuters
  • The current monkeypox outbreak is likely a "random event" linked to two raves in Europe, a WHO advisor told the AP. 
  • The chief theory behind the spread of monkeypox is sexual transmission the raves, the expert said. 
  • Another WHO advisor said, "This is not a gay disease," and that "anybody can contact monkeypox."
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

The current monkeypox outbreak across the globe is likely a "random event" linked to sex among gay and bisexual men at two recent raves in Europe, a leading advisor to the World Health Organisation told the Associated Press.

Dr. David Heymann told the AP in a report published on Monday that a leading theory behind the spread of the rare viral infection that primarily occurs in Central and West Africa is sexual transmission at two of the mass party events held in Spain and Belgium.

"We know monkeypox can spread when there is close contact with the lesions of someone who is infected, and it looks like sexual contact has now amplified that transmission," Heymann, a WHO advisor who formerly led WHO's emergencies department, told the AP. 

Monkeypox can cause flu-like symptoms, including fever and muscle aches, and can prompt puss-filled boils that cover the body

The disease is transmitted to humans "through close contact with an infected person or animal, or with material contaminated with the virus," the WHO has said. 

As of Saturday, 92 confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases of monkeypox have been reported to the WHO from a dozen countries since May 13. 

Monkeypox has recently been detected in the US, Canada, Australia, and across Europe. 

Portugal, Spain, and the UK currently account for the highest number of confirmed monkeypox cases with each country having reported between 21 and 30 cases, according to statistics compiled by the WHO. 

"Based on currently available information, cases have mainly but not exclusively been identified amongst men who have sex with men (MSM) seeking care in primary care and sexual health clinics," the WHO said on Saturday. 

Andy Seale, an advisor with the WHO's global HIV, hepatitis, and sexually transmitted infections programs, said during a live-streamed Q&A by the agency on Monday that though the agency is seeing monkeypox cases among men who identify as gay or bisexual, "This is not a gay disease as some people in social media have attempted to label it."

"That's just not the case. Anybody can contact monkeypox through close contact," Seale said. "You don't need to have sexual contact in order to transmit monkeypox. Close personal contact is sufficient."

Heymann, who is also a professor of infectious diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told the AP that the current monkeypox outbreak is likely a random event that could be traced back to one infection. 

"It's very possible there was somebody who got infected, developed lesions on the genitals, hands or somewhere else, and then spread it to others when there was sexual or close, physical contact," Heymann told the news outlet. "And then there were these international events that seeded the outbreak around the world, into the US and other European countries."

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