There has been an elevated sense of urgency in America since the Biden administration declared the monkeypox outbreak a national health emergency last week (Aug. 4). The president’s formal announcement is subsequent to the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring the uptick in cases of monkeypox a global emergency last month. And falsehoods on how the rare disease is contracted have been circulating since the Texas Department of State Health Services confirmed a human monkeypox case in July 2021.
REVOLT’s last “Fact Check” established, “The viral disease is transmitted by the monkeypox virus, a member of the same virus family that causes smallpox and cowpox.” Both animals and humans can contract monkeypox. In separate medical reports, there appears to be ongoing digital confusion about what a viral disease is.
Britannica summarizes the condition as “a disease caused by viruses. Long-term immunity usually follows viral childhood diseases … The common cold recurs into adulthood because many different viruses cause its symptoms, and immunity against one does not protect against others. Some viruses mutate fast enough to reinfect people after recovery … or to keep the immune system from fighting them off.”
Since the discovery of viral diseases, some solutions have been established. Vaccines are useful against the spread of multiple viruses and more powerful viral diseases. Further, viruses possess submicroscopic infectious agents, which means these viruses are smaller than everyday bacteria and protozoan types. Merriam Webster confirms the encyclopedia’s notations by publishing, “[Viruses] typically contain a protein coat surrounding an RNA or DNA core of genetic material but no semipermeable membrane.”
With these characteristics established, there are multiple factors to remember when considering who is a potential carrier of the latest threat: monkeypox. In short, a virus multiplies on living cells. Despite the science of the current outbreak, articles including Bloomberg’s “Monkeypox Cases Driven ‘Underground’ by Anti-Gay Stigma in India” document how, “In parts of the world where LGBTQ people face stigma and bias, patients are reluctant to seek testing or treatment.”
Claim: Can only gay men get monkeypox?
Sticking to the fundamental health attributes of human beings may prove useful when navigating language associated with a growing viral disease. For reference, the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) confirmed: “Ribonucleic acid (abbreviated RNA) is a nucleic acid present in all living cells that has structural similarities to [deoxyribonucleic acid] DNA. Unlike DNA, however, RNA is most often single-stranded.”
RNA is commonly mistaken with DNA, best known as “the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms,” per the National Library of Medicine (NLM). DNA presents itself the same in “nearly every cell in a person’s body,” the NLM substantiated. Also, when discussing DNA, it is potentially valuable to recognize that our genomes — the complete set of deoxyribonucleic acid instructions found in a cell — are not separated by identifiers such as persons’ ethnicity, race, gender or sexual orientation.
While concerns facing vulnerable demographics are generally understood during an outbreak, contemporary contributing factors to the fast-spreading viral disease and preceding virus crises are not new. REVOLT noted WHO’s statement that human monkeypox “was first identified in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in a 9-month-old boy in a region where smallpox had been eliminated in 1968.” No historical records indicate that the infant (in 1968) was a product of LGBTQ+ parents. There is evidence of interconnectedness with separate preceding viruses and their consequences.
In 2010, Popular Science documented, “From rabies to bird flu to HIV, diseases passing from animals to humans is a well-known phenomenon. But a virus jumping from plants to humans? Never. At least, that’s what doctors thought until Didier Raoult … discovered that the mild mottle virus found in peppers may be causing fever, aches, and itching in humans.” Information concerning the spread of viruses has since evolved from this explanation. Each chronology lends itself to the next.
Earlier this year, a ScienceDaily abstract verified that, “Biologists found hundreds of virus species traveling on pollen grains. The results carry lessons for agriculture.” More concisely, exposure to miscellaneous viruses’ characteristics arrives in numerous ways. Also, a virus differs from a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Like in the past, today, infants contribute to the global monkeypox total.
Similar to COVID-19, monkeypox has been registered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to “… spread through respiratory [means and] secretions.” The CDC also validated that touching objects like “fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox” increases the likelihood of spreading the illness. Additionally, the CDC cited that transmission is probable through:
Oral, anal, and vaginal sex or touching the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) of a person with monkeypox.
Hugging, massage, and kissing.
Prolonged face-to-face contact.
Touching fabrics and objects during sex that were used by a person with monkeypox and that have not been disinfected, such as bedding, towels, fetish gear, and sex toys.
In the United States, monkeypox is most prominent among queer identities and is numerically robust in California and New York. WHO’s LGBTQ-centric overview catalogs, “This can be concerning, especially for people whose loved ones or community have been affected. Some cases have been identified through sexual health clinics in communities of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.” Adjacent to these findings is the observation that heterosexuals, while fewer in monkeypox cases, can be monkeypox carriers.
The CDC originally encouraged gay men to reduce their sexual partners and activity. However, activists, allies, and some medical professionals expanded discussions regarding the stigmatization of LGBTQ+ communities’ behaviors, as heterosexuals can also have multiple sexual partners, and so forth. The Washington Post wrote, “… According to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention … The revisions come a day after the Biden administration declared the growing monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency and as experts, LGBT advocates and health authorities debate how to convey messages about sexual transmission of the virus.”
Furthermore, monkeypox exposure does not occur exclusively during sex. There are simple ways to help reduce transmission. Long clothing decreases the possibility of skin-to-skin contact in public settings. Face masks are efficient in lessening the probability of inhaling respiratory droplets. In contrast, insensitive language was utilized against Asian-Americans by the nation’s former president regarding COVID-19. Earlier this year, NBC News recorded that “… the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism revealed that anti-Asian hate crime increased by 339 percent last year compared to the year before.” Discriminatory language relating to monkeypox has the potential to increase already heightened hate crime numbers against queer identities.