The dating app Grindr is warning its 11 million LGBTQ community users that Monkeypox has been linked to men who have sex with men.
The warning comes after the monkeypox virus has quickly spread to the LGBTQ communities in countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Spain, and the United States, CNN reports.
Monkeypox is characterized by blister-like rashes, which has led to misdiagnosis as a sexually transmitted infection in gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
Additionally, it seems that the virus spreads in a similar way to STIs: through close, intimate contact.
Virologists say it’s possible to spread the monkeypox undetected if it is misdiagnosed repeatedly – and patients infected would not have access to appropriate treatment.
It is generally believed that monkeypox spreads through large respiratory droplets, contact with sores, or sharing of bedsheets or clothing with someone shedding the virus.
So far, most of the new cases have been associated with men who have sex with men, suggesting the virus may transmit through sexual networks.
Therefore, Grindr has been working to provide its users with accurate information about the outbreak.
Grindr Issues Warnings Over MonkeyPox
Users in the UK and Europe, where most cases have been found so far, received pop-up alerts on the Grinder App in 13 different languages over the weekend.
The popup links were to verified, up-to-date information about monkeypox from public health authorities such as the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
Jack Harrison-Quintana, the director of Grindr’s advocacy arm, Grindr for Equality, said, “We see ourselves as the connective tissue between groups on the ground, like the European CDC and UK Health Security Agency, and our users.”
“Public health has long been a part of the gay community.”
LGBTQ communities were disproportionately affected by the HIV/AIDS crisis during the early years of this public health history, and continue to be affected to this day.
Although there are effective antivirals available to treat monkeypox, the strain circulating now is typically mild and symptoms resolve on their own.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, monkeypox can infect anyone, but most cases of this particular outbreak have been caused by men having sex with men.
There is still no evidence that transmission occurs through seminal or vaginal fluids, even though many of the cases have been identified at sexual health clinics.
Sexual Contact the Catalyst
In the typical sense, monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection, but it has been linked to sexual and intimate contact,” says Laura Bachmann, director of the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention.
There have been previous outbreaks of monkeypox outside of Africa, but those outbreaks are typically associated with travelers to the continent or are caused by spillover from animals.
According to experts, this latest outbreak of monkeypox is spreading without evidence of a catalyst, which raises concerns that sexual contact is responsible for spreading the virus.
Monkeypox has been thought to spread through sex infrequently or not at all before, according to research from European health officials.
The viruses can spread through multiple channels and, in recent years, studies have shown that several infectious diseases can be transmitted through sex.
The best way to stop a pathogen is to understand the main routes along which it spreads.
Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, said it is unclear how monkeypox came to use sexual networks as a mode of transmission.
Man to Man Contact
The CDC advises clinicians to be on the lookout for rashes that occur in men who have recently had close and intimate contact with other men. The agency also mentions travel to epidemic areas and contact with confirmed or suspected cases as reasons for heightened concern.
Since monkeypox isn’t commonly found in the US, it might be easy for clinicians to mistake its rash for an STI. However, monkeypox requires different treatment than common STIs, so a proper diagnosis is crucial.
The CDC says one early infection was mistakenly identified as “severe herpes” instead of monkeypox. Officials in the US and the UK have warned that the cases have already been mistaken for STIs.
Most of the cases identified so far have been seen at sexual health clinics with sores present in the genital area, which might be mistaken for syphilis or herpes.
Genital lesions are less frequently associated with the disease, another feature of the recent outbreak making diagnosis more difficult.
CDC researchers found that some recent monkeypox cases did not develop fever or any of the other typical flu-like symptoms associated with monkeypox. The rash is usually found on the face, then the palms of hands, and finally the soles of the feet.
Painful Genital Ulcers
According to the Canadian Press, health officials initially believed they were dealing with cases of chancroid, a bacteria that leads to painful genital ulcers, until they heard about a monkeypox case in the U.S., which changed the focus of their investigation, according to the Canadian Press.
So far, most cases have occurred in men who have sex with men, but health officials have cautioned that the disease isn’t isolated to one particular group of people.
The World Health Organization’s Department of Global HIV, Hepatitis and STD Programmes’ Andy Seale said during a Q&A Monday. “While we are seeing some cases among men who have sex with men, this is not a gay disease.”
According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, it is a priority to engage communities and prevent stigmatization associated with monkeypox based on sexual orientation.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, risk communication messages could also indicate that monkeypox virus infection is not indicative of someone’s sexual orientation nor that it affects their susceptibility to the disease.
To raise awareness about monkeypox, the CDC is collaborating with LGBTQ organizations in the US, including the sexual health organization Building Healthy Online Communities, to see if it is possible to remove the information from dating apps, as Grindr has done in the UK.
In the current context, some groups may be more susceptible to exposure to monkeypox than others, according to Christina Hutson, head of the CDC’s Poxvirus Branch. “But by no means is the current risk of exposure to monkeypox limited to the gay and bisexual community.”