The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidelines for ‘safer sex’ amid the spread of the monkeypox virus, urging romantic partners to take steps to reduce exposure to the rare illness.
Published on Friday and entitled ‘Safer Sex, Social Gatherings, and Monkeypox’, the CDC document advises partners to watch out for “any new or unexplained rash or lesion” on various body parts, one distinct symptom of the monkeypox virus.
While the agency said vaccination against monkeypox would offer protection, it added that the currently limited supply of doses could mean some will not have access.
Short of a shot, then, the CDC suggested individuals avoid “anonymous sexual contact” and “private and public sex parties,” instead proposing “virtual sex with no in-person contact.” Alternatively, lovers might also “masturbate together at a distance without touching each other and without touching any rash,” or “consider having sex with [their] clothes on,” the document continued.
More than 6,000 monkeypox infections have been confirmed in the US since May, with a disproportionate number occurring among gay men. While it remains unknown whether the virus is primarily spread by sex itself or merely through the extended contact involved in sexual intercourse, World Health Organization (WHO) head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last month that men “with multiple sexual” partners of the same sex are particularly at risk.
On Thursday, the White House followed the WHO’s lead in declaring the monkeypox a public health emergency, with US Health Secretary Xavier Becerra calling on “every American to take monkeypox seriously.”
While rare, the virus has been detected in the US before, with a Texas resident becoming hospitalized with monkeypox last summer after traveling to West Africa, where the pathogen is endemic. In 2003, more than 70 cases were confirmed in the US, marking the first outbreak seen outside of Africa, according to the WHO.
Symptoms include fever, head and muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and exhaustion, as well as rashes, sores, and skin lesions. Most infections resolve without serious illness, but the virus is lethal in a small percentage of cases.
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