What is MPXV (monkeypox)?
MPXV, otherwise known as monkeypox, is a rare, viral infection that was first discovered in monkeys in 1958. Since the 1970’s there have been outbreaks across the world.
The World Health Organization originally named the disease monkeypox when it was first discovered, but it intends to rename it to MPXV “to minimize unnecessary negative impact of disease names on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare, and avoid causing offense to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups.”
In May 2022, 200 cases of MPXV were reported in Europe, North America, Israel, and Australia.
How is MPXV spread?
Anyone, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, can get MPXV through extended, physical contact with another infected person’s skin or bodily fluids, like respiratory droplets (through coughing or sneezing).
Since prolonged contact occurs when people engage in sexual activity, MPXV can be spread to sexual partners. However, it’s important to remember that MPXV is NOT a sexually transmitted disease.
You can also be at risk of getting MPXV if you have contact with items like bedding or clothes used by someone who’s infected.
What are the symptoms of MPXV?
People who contract MPXV may experience:
- Muscle aches
- Swollen lymph glands
- Rashes or lesions
Symptoms last about two to four weeks. MPXV is deadly in 1% to 3% of cases, but no deaths have been reported in the recent outbreaks in western countries.
How do I protect myself against MPXV?
As of June 23, 2022, Public Health Ontario has reported 45 confirmed cases of MPXV in Ontario, most of which are in Toronto.
To avoid getting infected, try to:
- Minimize close, frequent interactions with a lot of people you don’t know, especially in large gatherings where there may be attendees who are infected
- Talk to partners about sexual health and using barriers like condoms
- Pay attention to rashes on others, alert them, and avoid contact
- Minimize physical contact if you’re going to saunas, spas, and clubs
- Get any sores and rashes checked out immediately by a doctor
- Practice good personal hygiene, and clean and disinfect clothes and surfaces that the virus may cling to
Since the outbreak isn’t widespread enough to require a mass screening campaign, you will need to be proactive about your health and take preventative action.
There’s no vaccine specifically for MPXV, but since the disease is in the same family as smallpox, the vaccine for smallpox may be effective for reducing symptoms if you get MPXV. Vaccines may be available to at-risk groups, so follow-up with your doctor to get more information.
Is anyone at greater risk of getting MPXV?
MPXV is spread through direct physical contact, so once it’s introduced to a community or network of people, like people who live in the same house or sexual partners, it can spread through them.
MPXV can be spread to anyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
By chance, during this recent outbreak, the virus was introduced to members of the gay community and spread among them, so many health organizations are encouraging people to take extra precaution if there’s a chance they may be at greater risk of exposure.
People with weakened immune systems are often more severely impacted by infections like monkeypox. This includes people living with HIV who are not receiving treatment, or who have low T-cell counts. However, those living with HIV with undetectable viral loads are at no greater risk for complications than someone without HIV.
Make sure to turn to reliable sources of information for your health and safety concerns, like:
- Gay Men’s Sexual Health Alliance Monkeypox information.
- Symptoms and management by the Government of Canada
- Monkeypox virus information by Ottawa Public Health
What health resources can I turn to if I have more questions?
Sexual Health Infoline Ontario offers free counselling services on sexual health.
Vaccine clinics are available in:
You can also reach out to local Bathhouse and Community Agency Clinics in your area for more information.