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'This is not an STD,' UK professor debunks myth concerning monkeypox spread

berk monkeypox uk
Posted at 5:09 PM, Aug 19, 2022

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — For the first time in two years, the first week of school at the University of Kentucky had a sense of normalcy. No one walking around wearing masks, or having to worry too much about social distancing.

But even before the first autumn leaf has a chance to change color and hit the ground, another virus is making itself known in Fayette County.

The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department recorded its first confirmed case of monkeypox this week. In America, we now have approximately 13,000 confirmed cases, up from roughly 10,000 a week ago. How long will it be before it spreads to this campus?

“I want them to be aware of it,” said Dr. Ilhem Massaoudi, a UK professor of Immunology and Microbiology. “I think we should be vigilant, but not as concerned as we were with SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19,” she continued.

Dr. Massaoudi said the transmission rate for monkeypox is very low, and unlike the coronavirus, you can’t contract it by merely being within 6 feet of an infected person.

“In order for someone to contract monkeypox, they have to have prolonged contact with somebody who is actively exhibiting symptoms of the disease as pustules on their skin,” she explained.

And monkeypox, unlike COVID, will give you a warning. Flu-like symptoms will precede the skin lesions associated with monkeypox, giving you a warning that it might be time to get tested before becoming contagious to others.

But there is one myth the doctor was quick to debunk as it relates to the spread of monkeypox.

“This is not a sexually transmitted disease,” she stressed. “This has absolutely nothing to do with your sexual orientation or activities.”

Dr. Massaoudi also noted that transmission can occur when you share bed linens or an unwashed article of clothing with a person who is presenting with those lesions.

“The transmission is prolonged contact. A sexual encounter involves skin-to-skin contact, but so do other things,” she stated.

In short, Dr. Massaoudi wants students to be aware that monkeypox is out there, but she is not ready to tell them to allow it to consume their lives. Again, she feels strongly about the low transmission rate and the ability to avoid contact with a symptomatic individual. At the same time, she does know the odds increase when factoring in the community living of a university dormitory, fraternity house, or off-campus apartment.

“I agree. The risk factors and risk behaviors are going to be much higher on a college campus than they would be, potentially for you and me,” she noted.