Africa CDC says gay sex is ‘irrelevant’ in monkeypox there

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NAIROBI, Kenya (TSWT) – The African public health agency says it doesn’t know how many of the reported cases of monkeypox this year occur in men who have sex with men, and it warned Thursday of “any stigma” that could delay the reporting of cases and influence the outbreak response.

Monkeypox cases reported in Europe and North America have almost exclusively involved gay and bisexual men, although health officials have said the virus can infect anyone who comes in close physical contact with an infected person, their clothing or bedding. .

But “that indicator is irrelevant in the African context,” acting director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ahmed Ogwell, told reporters. Many of Africa’s 54 countries criminalize same-sex consensual relationships to some degree.

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Ogwell was asked how the issue of men having sex with men could be ruled out as a factor in the current outbreak of the largely conservative continent if his agency had no statistics on it.

“It’s not a problem here,” he said. “And frankly, we don’t want to make a big deal out of it because we need to control serious outbreaks and we don’t want to engage in discussion that will distract us (from preparedness and response).”

Although monkeypox has been endemic to parts of Africa for decades, it usually jumps into humans from infected wildlife and has typically not spread far beyond the continent.

Ogwell said health officials in Africa have been collecting data on monkey pox since 1970 and that men who have sex with men have never emerged as a major problem. He said the causes of this outbreak are “traditional,” including close contact in confined spaces and living in communities that come into contact with animals that have the virus.

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“We have not seen any evidence that a specific group of individuals is affected by monkeypox,” he said. “All communities, all ages, all genders are at risk.” He urged people to “avoid definitions and communications that could stigmatize those exposed.”

A deadlier form of monkey pox is spreading in Africa than in the West. Africa has had more than 2,800 confirmed and suspected cases in 11 countries this year, including 103 deaths.

The number of confirmed and suspected cases has risen by 766 since the Africa CDC briefing last week, with 28 new deaths. The death rate is “relatively high” at 3.6%, the Africa CDC said.

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Only a handful of deaths outside Africa have been reported in this outbreak.

The Africa CDC director also said the continent still has no doses of monkeypox vaccines, although talks with a number of countries and institutions about obtaining them continue. He said test kits are also “urgently needed.”

Experts suspect that the monkeypox outbreaks in North America and Europe originated in Africa long before the disease began spreading through sex at two raves in Spain and Belgium. More than 70% of monkey pox cases in the world are in Europe and 98% occur in men who have sex with men.

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Follow all TSWT coverage of monkeypox at https://apnews.com/hub/monkeypox

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