As of July 25, there were 16,683 confirmed cases of monkeypox reported across 74 countries. The first reported case of monkeypox in the U.S. was on May 18, when a man in Massachusetts tested positive for the virus.
Google Trends data shows people have been searching for “monkeypox sexually transmitted” and asking the search engine “is monkeypox a sexually transmitted disease.”
An article from The Associated Press raised questions about the classification of monkeypox.
This tweet with more than 4,000 likes and over 600 retweets says: “From what I’ve read…it seems to me like Monkey Pox is an STD?”
RELATED: 4 Fast Facts about monkeypox
Is monkeypox a sexually transmitted disease?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- World Health Organization
- National Institutes of Health
- Saralyn Mark, M.D., former senior medical advisor to The White House
- Robert L. Murphy, M.D., Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine
No, monkeypox is not considered a sexually transmitted disease. Monkeypox can be transmitted through a variety of ways, including through sexual and non-sexual contact.
WHAT WE FOUND
The World Health Organization defines sexually transmitted infections or sexually transmitted diseases as spread predominately by sexual contact, including vaginal, anal and oral sex.
More than 30 different bacteria, viruses and parasites are known to be transmitted through sexual contact. Eight of the 30 of these pathogens are linked to the greatest incidence of sexually transmitted disease. Of these, four are currently curable: syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis. The other four are viral infections which are incurable: hepatitis B, herpes simplex virus (HSV or herpes), HIV and human papillomavirus (HPV).
Monkeypox, which is a disease that originated in wild animals like rodents and primates, is not on WHO’s list viruses transmitted through sexual contact. Further, it is a member of the orthopoxvirus family. There are no sexually transmitted diseases known to have originated within the orthopoxvirus family, according to a list from the National Institute of Health.
Monkeypox isn’t considered a sexually transmitted disease in the “classic sense” because it’s not spread through semen, vaginally or only via sex, Robert L. Murphy, M.D., said in a news release published by Northwestern University.
High levels of skin-to-skin contact often happen during sex, which is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned people to be careful if they are showing symptoms and offers guidance on what partners can do to still engage in sexual activity even if they come into contact with monkeypox.
The CDC says monkeypox is transmitted when a person comes into contact with the virus from an animal, human, or materials that are contaminated with the virus.
The virus enters the body through broken skin (even if not visible), the respiratory tract, or the mucous membranes (eyes, nose, or mouth).
Animal-to-human contact can occur if an infected animal bites or scratches a person. Human-to-human transmission primarily occurs through close physical contact with bodily fluids, respiratory droplets, skin lesions or recently contaminated objects, the CDC and World Health Organization say.
Saralyn Mark, M.D., former senior medical advisor to The White House under President Barack Obama told VERIFY there does not need to be intimate skin contact so non-sexual contact can infect.
RELATED: 4 Fast Facts about monkeypox
“Additionally, there may be a small respiratory component if scabs dry and viral particles are shed into the air and there is also a small possibility that there could be transmission from fomites such as clothing and bedding that has been exposed to the monkeypox rash and fluid from the blisters,” Mark told VERIFY in an email.
Most patients that become infected with monkeypox experience fever, rash and swollen lymph nodes, according to the WHO. The rash tends to stay concentrated on the face and extremities but can spread across the body in more severe cases.
Other viruses that can spread during sex, but are not considered sexually transmitted disease (or STDs), are:
- The common cold
- Pink Eye
- The flu
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a vaccine that would prevent monkeypox and smallpox in 2019. The Jynneos vaccine is administered in two doses and is recommended for individuals 18 and older that are at high risk for monkeypox. The CDC has a list of current eligibility for the vaccine:
1. Known contacts who are identified by public health via case investigation, contact tracing, and risk exposure assessments
2. Presumed contacts who may meet the following criteria:
- Know that a sexual partner in the past 14 days was diagnosed with monkeypox
- Had multiple sexual partners in the past 14 days in a jurisdiction with known monkeypox
Some states have expanded their eligibility criteria beyond what the CDC has recommended. If you have questions on your state’s vaccine eligibility criteria, contact your local health department.