Gay men in the UK and Europe have a new source of “pride” that they can point to: a disease called monkeypox, a virus spread by sexual activity that resembles smallpox, can cause disfiguring sores and can even be fatal.
Contact tracers are currently working at gay bars and spas in an effort to contain an outbreak of the disease, common in some African countries but rare elsewhere. They are focusing on venues visited by six homosexual men who tested positive in the past week, according to an update by the World Health Organization (WHO) that was reported by DailyMail.com.
Six of the UK’s nine cases are men who have sex with men, which officials say is highly indicative of how it is being spread. A similar pattern is observable in Europe. Seven gay or bisexual men have tested positive in Spain and nine “mostly young” males are positive in Portugal.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) on May 19 issued an advisory to men to be vigilant for new rashes on their faces or genitals.
Authorities fear the known cases are part of a larger spread, since current patients are not linked to each other so far. Nine British citizens have been diagnosed and all but one appear to have contracted it in the UK. The original UK patient had brought the virus back from Nigeria, where the disease is widespread.
“Contacts are being assessed based on their level of exposure and followed up through active or passive surveillance for 21 days from the date of last exposure to a case,” said WHO. Vaccination is being offered to higher risk contacts.
“Sexual contacts and venues visited (for example saunas, bars and clubs) are actively being investigated for the four GBMSM [gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men] cases.”