Marco, 40, lives with his partner in Edmonton, Alberta. Marco’s partner had been “feeling” for days – his body temperature was low, he was a little tired, and he had a few bumps on his hands that didn’t look serious, so he didn’t think much of it.
Marco joked that it could be a monkey smallpox. “I mean, what are the opportunities? At least 1 in 6 billion? ” he told BuzzFeed News.
At that time, there was only one confirmed case of the smallpox virus in Alberta.
The next day, Marco’s partner called a public health nurse and said he was in close contact with a man who had a positive assessment of the monkey’s illness. Marco also talked to the nurse and said he felt fine, but he had a sore under his tongue, but he was not particularly sensitive.
“I had a taco with Valentine’s sauce, and it didn’t hurt at all,” he said. (Hot sauce burns most cancers.) Assessing their risk and symptoms, the nurse asked to see both immediately.
Two days after the examination, Marco and his partner received another call from a public health nurse. On Wednesday, he told BuzzFeed News: “We just got a call and we both had monkey smallpox.”
Monkeys are still rare, but cases are on the rise
A new epidemic of smallpox is spreading throughout the United States, Canada and Europe, and most of the initial cases have been in queer men. According to the World Health Organization, as of June 8, there were now about 1,200 cases of monkey disease worldwide, including 321 in the United Kingdom, 100 in Canada and 39 in the United States. Fifteen other states, including California, New York and Florida. was were.
There is cause for concern, but this is not another COVID. The virus is less contagious or less likely to spread, and there are two vaccines against smallpox. One is Jynneos (also known as Imvamune or Imvanex brands), the other is ACAM2000. They help prevent symptoms even after exposure or infection.
Approximately 3% to 6% of people infected with smallpox can die from the infection, which is dangerous for children and people with weakened immune systems, and the strains of the virus appear to be milder than those endemic to West Africa. The endangered species of smallpox is endemic to Central Africa.
In many cities there are events like Pride events taking place. People are traveling and finally celebrating, this is the first summer since 2019 for most, and they can gather without COVID restrictions. Mask mandates no longer exist on public transport or in many cities. Because emergency services are one way of spreading the virus, health professionals are vigilant and working to provide information on STIs to LGBT + communities.
But let’s be clear – smallpox is not technically STIs, but some people say they have genital sores or are infected with the virus during sex. The disease can be transmitted through intercourse and kissing, sharing towels or sheets, or even any close or physical contact that involves the secretion of airways from breathing or talking in prolonged contact with the face. spread of the virus.
Smallpox is not a new disease. It was first found in monkeys (hence the name) used for scientific research in 1958 and was first observed in humans in the 1970s. It roams naturally in endemic areas as rodent-like animals, sometimes jumping on people who catch sick animals or biting or scratching them.
Despite an epidemic in the Midwest in the United States in 2003, it is rare outside Africa or among people who have not recently visited an endemic area. At the time, 70 people had contracted the virus from imported pets. and sleep.
In general, monkey smallpox symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, swollen lymph nodes, chills and fatigue. Symptoms appear 7-14 days after the onset of the disease, but they can occur in 5 to 21 days. One to three days after the onset of symptoms, people often develop rashes and raised sores, which eventually cover the surface and form scabs. In general, symptoms can persist for up to four weeks.
Marco found that his and his partner’s symptoms were different from what he read on public health agencies’ websites.
“When people start getting symptoms, you know how to go to the doctor. Google, “said Marco.” You see the signs and symptoms, but no one is saying that the signs and symptoms can be different. “
People with rabies may develop rashes on their face before it spreads to other parts of the body, according to the CDC.
Marco himself and his partner noted that no rash appeared. “Acne all over the body should turn into pustules,” Marco said. “We didn’t have either, except maybe under my tongue.”
Monkeypox is not a “gay disease” and is at risk of stigma
Marco asked us to use his name, to prevent the stigma of the diagnosis on himself or his partner, but he also wanted to share his experience to prevent further spread of the virus.
The stigma is embedded in the LGBTQ + experience.
HIV / AIDS has been closely associated with queer men since the epidemic intensified in the 1980s. Some fear that monkey ticks will follow the same path. This year, UNAIDS, the International Organization for HIV / AIDS, issued a statement on the stigmatizing effects of portraying LGBT + people, as well as Africans, on social media about monkey disease.
In addition to causing social harm, UNAIDS also warned that such associations could lead to more problems for public health. Deputy Executive Director of the Program, Dr. “The stigma hurts everyone. General science and social solidarity help everyone,” Cavanag said in the release.
Others say that stigma is less important when public health is at stake. Historian Jim Downs recently wrote an article for the Atlantic entitled “Gay Men Need Special Warning About Monkey Smallpox.” In this article, Downs writes, “Giving gay men careful special warnings about the dangers of monkey disease can be a form of education, not a stigma.”
Peter Staley is one of the founding members of the ACT UP, an organization of HIV / AIDS activists. According to him, queer men always experience stigma, whether through the rhetoric surrounding monkeys or other means.
“The law attacks us for everything and for everyone we can,” he said. They are always there and they always will be, “he told BuzzFeed News.” We should never allow gays to talk to each other about health and risks. “
Stylie fully acknowledges that reports of the threat of monkey smallpox could create stigma by linking the virus to tenants in the wider community.
“You have to fight two at the same time. We need to deliver the word to gay men through targeted messages. And we must be prepared to deal with the stigma that arises by delivering messages that are relevant to the general public.
A few weeks after the first case was first reported in the U.S. on May 19, targeted reports of monkey smallpox began to reach the queer men in the country. Such operational communications are possible through existing infrastructure paved through campaigns to reach LGBT + people to prevent HIV / AIDS and other STIs.
Given that June is a month of pride, the CDC urgently needs Dr. / Director of HIV / AIDS Prevention. Demeter Daskalakis, working with organizations and health groups to learn about monkeys. He and his team plan to talk to several Pride organizers this week. Daskalakis said meetings this summer could be seen as more of an opportunity than a risk.
“I think Pride is a great opportunity to educate people. And when I think about our advice, it’s really about educating people about what will happen over the summer, whether they’re going to Pride or not, ”he told BuzzFeed News. “I don’t think places are a dangerous environment because it’s really about reducing your risk, having the right information to guide you to what you want.”
Daskalakis believes that the outbreak is more similar to the 2008 MRSA epidemic, an antibiotic-resistant staphylococcal infection, than the HIV / AIDS pandemic that began in the 1980s. Meat-eating bacteria first spread among groups of quinine before spreading to the general population.
“Because it’s so similar, it spreads through a really close connection. Sex, of course, can be a reason for intimacy or other intimacy, ”Daskalakis said.
At the time, agencies continued to issue such warnings through health care providers, especially those focused on HIV / AIDS. This was before the advent of smartphones and location-based dating apps. Now the conversation has expanded.
Grindr, the most popular of these apps, has released several informative notes on monkey disease. The app exploded in the mailbox of every user in the United States, Canada and most European countries with a message written by a local health agency and an official link from a source in their home country.
“We’re not a public health authority, but we’re a great systematizer,” said Patrick Lenikhan, Grindr’s vice president of communications. “Our users want this information and these groups want to disseminate it to keep this population safe.”
In the United States, Grindr is working with a group called Building Healthy Online Communities, which aims to provide targeted sexual health messages by bringing together public health professionals and dating apps. The app has contacted the Canadian Public Health Agency to deliver warning messages to its users.