The number of confirmed cases of monkeypox in Ireland continues to increase, as the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) has identified two more, bringing the total up to four. The HPSC is monitoring all cases and close contacts, while no other information is provided on grounds of patient confidentiality.
Since the international alert about the monkeypox cases was first raised, the State’s response in Ireland has been handled by an incident management team specifically established by the HSE.
In recent weeks, more than 500 monkeypox cases were confirmed in Europe, North America and other parts of the world. Strangely, the vast majority is also not connected to travel to and from countries where the disease is endemic.
Recent media reports about the cases linked the virus to gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, as a large number were detected among this group. However, there is nothing about the viral disease and how it is transmitted that is unique to men who have sex with men.
In fact, if we are considering person-to-person transmission, monkeypox is primarily spread through contact with body fluids and skin lesions and primarily through large respiratory droplets, for which prolonged face-to-face contact is required.
The first case of monkeypox has been identified in Ireland.
This was expected and extensive work was already underway in preparation. There is no cause for panic.
— Adam Shanley (@Adlers1) May 28, 2022
According to the sexual health service Man2Man and the HPSC website, the reason why multiple cases were detected among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with may be because of “positive health-seeking behaviour in this community”. This opinion was also shared by WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Henri P. Kluge, who added that gay and bisexual communities should be applauded “for their early presentation to health-care services.”
Activists and organisations such as UNAIDS have voiced their concerns about homophobic and racist media reports on the monkeypox cases. Indeed, misleading media coverage is a threat to everyone: not only does it cause more stigma around men who have sex with men, but it also creates the false impression that everyone else is immune to the disease, and thus not at risk.
It is necessary to reiterate the fact that monkeypox is not specific to one group and could affect anyone. If you have symptoms associated with the virus (itchy rash, fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and exhaustion), please contact your GP or a local sexual health clinic.
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