If you’ve been following the news, you’ve probably already heard of monkeypox. While it may sound unlikely that you’ll contract the virus, the truth is that monkeypox cases have been steadily increasing in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation surrounding the virus, especially about who is most at risk for contracting it. With so many bizarre monkeypox sex theories being spread around, having the facts about the current outbreak can significantly decrease your risk of contracting the virus.
Here’s what we know about this public health emergency and how you can use that information to keep yourself as safe as possible.
What Is Monkeypox?
Monkeypox is a viral infection caused by the monkeypox virus, a virus in the same “Orthopox” genus as smallpox. It’s important to note that, even though they look similar, monkeypox is not related to chickenpox, which is a common misconception.
Although the virus is named “monkeypox” (because scientists originally discovered it in a colony of research monkeys in 1958), it can also be passed back and forth from animals to humans, known medically as being “zoonotic.”
The first case of monkeypox in humans wasn’t seen until 1970. Other than a few rare cases in Europe and the US, epidemiologists hadn’t seen it expand much from the continent of Africa until the current monkeypox outbreak.
There are also two types (or “clades”) of monkeypox virus that can cause illness in humans — central African monkeypox (Congo Basin) and west African monkeypox. The Central African monkeypox type tends to make people sicker. Luckily, the more mild west African form of monkeypox is currently making the rounds in the United States.
What Are The Signs and Symptoms of Monkeypox?
According to the World Health Organization, monkeypox can create various signs and symptoms, although many people wrongly assume it is just a skin-related illness. Monkeypox symptoms cause anywhere from incredibly mild illness to very severe disease.
However, most people that develop more severe symptoms also tend to be at high risk — usually the immunocompromised, pregnant, or people who are very young. The most well-known symptom of monkeypox is the telltale rash.
A monkeypox rash can show up anywhere on the skin or inside the body — the face, arms, genitals, or mouth. Generally, a monkeypox rash appears in the areas that come into the most direct contact with the virus.
Initially, the rash looks like a blister or pimple and can be itchy or even extremely painful. As it progresses, the lesions usually start to burst open and ooze before eventually scabbing over.
That’s not the only monkeypox symptom, though. There are plenty of other signs to be on the lookout for as well, including flu-like symptoms including:
- Muscle aches and pain
- Respiratory symptoms like cough or nasal congestion
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
As you may have noticed, these other symptoms are much more general. Because not everyone develops a rash first (or at all), it can make it hard to narrow down the cause and easier to unknowingly spread the virus.
However, the most common symptoms of monkeypox are fever, rash, and swollen lymph nodes — if you have any combination of those three symptoms, contact your healthcare provider.
How Does Monkeypox Spread?
One of the most misunderstood parts of monkeypox is how exactly it spreads. Unfortunately, this misunderstanding has also led to some unfair theories that monkeypox is a sexually transmitted infection or that it only affects gay men. Both of those theories are dangerously untrue.
In reality, monkeypox is spread from person to person through close contact with anyone who has the virus. This intimate contact can be mouth-to-mouth, skin-to-skin, mouth-to-skin, or face-to-face contact.
It doesn’t have to be close physical contact with the actual rash, either, because not everyone will develop that symptom. Direct, prolonged contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids (like saliva or respiratory droplets) can spread the monkeypox virus.
For example, monkeypox can be spread by:
- Kissing on the cheek or the lips
- Sexual interactions
In addition, and potentially more concerning, is that the spread of monkeypox may be possible through “incidental” contact. Incidental contact means someone who comes into contact with any surface or material an infected person has recently touched may develop the disease themselves.
Although this doesn’t happen a lot, it is worth noting. That also means that healthcare workers are especially at risk.
How Long Does Monkeypox Last?
One of the biggest questions about monkeypox is how long the virus lasts and how long it may be contagious. The time from initial infection to when signs and symptoms show up can be anywhere from five to 21 days, but usually closer to between six and 13.
Once symptoms show up, they usually last for between two and four weeks. If you develop a rash, the monkeypox virus can spread as soon as the first bump develops.
The monkeypox rash continues to be contagious until all the lesions have crusted over and a new layer of skin has formed over them. If you suspect you may have contracted monkeypox, you’ll need to stay isolated for the entirety of your illness (typically two to four weeks).
Monkeypox and Sex
Monkeypox sex theories are everywhere, but like everything on the internet, that doesn’t make them necessarily accurate. We believe it’s essential to dispel the myths about monkeypox and sex so that you know the reality of the current situation.
First and foremost, monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection (STI). While it can spread during skin-to-skin contact with sex, it can just as easily spread through any contact with an infected person.
The only reason that sex is risky with monkeypox infections on the rise in the United States is because of the physical closeness that comes with sexual activity, not the actual sex itself.
Realistically, many other infectious diseases that can spread through sexual contact are far more transmissible than monkeypox. Although it may be awkward, exchanging contact information with your sexual partners ahead of time is crucial.
Their contact information can help you get in touch with them if symptoms occur after a potential sexual transmission. Always wear condoms with new sex partners, even though it won’t protect you from monkeypox.
Another persistent monkeypox sex myth is that only men who have sex with men (MSM) are at risk of catching the virus. Unfortunately, this untruth has caused much of the “blame” to be unfairly pointed at gay and bisexual men for the current outbreak.
Those claims are dangerous and further the misconception that monkeypox is a sexually transmitted disease, leading to many people letting their guard down. While it is always good practice to practice safe sex when engaging with a number of sexual partners, it does not matter whether this is with one gender over others.
How Can I Reduce My Risk of Catching Monkeypox?
Prevention is the front line for reducing your risk of monkeypox, as with any contagious disease. Quickly identifying what a monkeypox rash looks like can help you avoid contact with obviously infected people, but regular, frequent handwashing is also crucial.
Because the virus can spread from person to person through respiratory droplets, it’s also a good idea to avoid crowded events in areas with known monkeypox cases. The CDC keeps an updated map of reported cases of monkeypox; check it before making any big plans.
Is There a Monkeypox Vaccine?
There is a monkeypox vaccine, but supply is still relatively hard to find. In most areas, vaccines are only given to people with close contact with someone infected. If you aren’t sure if you qualify, call your local public health department for more information.
If there are vaccines available, they can help get you scheduled. If you don’t qualify, you can find out more information about how to reduce your risk and when more vaccines may become available in your area.
There is also the possibility that people who previously received the smallpox vaccine may have additional protection from the risk of monkeypox. Unfortunately, few people have gotten the smallpox vaccine, so any remaining immunity is waning and not likely to provide that much protection.
How Do Doctors Treat Monkeypox?
If you end up contracting monkeypox, how is it treated, and what can they do for you?
Unfortunately, there are currently no treatments that can specifically “cure” monkeypox. Unlike bacteria, antibiotics don’t work against viruses (think: the flu or the common cold).
However, a few antiviral treatments can help reduce how long the virus can last and how severe it gets. Many of these medications are the same ones that medical professionals use to help treat people with smallpox.
Mostly, treatment for monkeypox is about treating the symptoms of the virus. Supportive care, like minimizing the pain related to lesions or treating respiratory symptoms, is crucial. It’s also essential to stay hydrated and eat healthy food to support your body’s ability to heal.
What About Monkeypox and Prostate Massage?
Monkeypox sex stigma is everywhere, but do you need to fear contracting the virus during a prostate massage?
Like with sex, the key to reducing the risk of contracting monkeypox is to practice prostate massage safely. If you’re enjoying prostate massage solo, your risk of contracting monkeypox is zero as long as you wash your hands beforehand and don’t share your prostate massager with anyone else.
If you decide to enjoy prostate massage with a partner, especially a new partner, or if you are also sexually active with other people, add monkeypox to the questions you ask before your encounter.
Have they been vaccinated? Have you been exposed? While asking those questions may not feel sexy, they can help keep you safe.
Other Ways To Keep Prostate Massage Safe and Fun
We’re big fans of prostate massage at GIDDI, which is why we pride ourselves on our award-winning selection of prostate massagers. In general, prostate massage is incredibly satisfying to experience by yourself or a partner.
And, to clear up any further stigma, everyone with a prostate can enjoy this type of stimulation, regardless of sexual orientation. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things you can do to make prostate massage even safer and more fun, though.
Here are a few tips to get you started.
- Lubrication. Never attempt any prostate massage without using proper lubrication. We prefer water-based lubes because they are the most compatible with the materials used in most prostate massagers (like our Tomo II Come Hither). Lube can also make you less likely to experience pain or develop an infection, as it reduces friction and the potential for tearing.
- Take Your Time. We understand you may be excited to jump in and try prostate massage. However, as excited as you are, take your time and ease into any type of prostate stimulation. Listen to your body as you experiment, and stop any time anything feels painful.
- Learn More About Your Prostate. Prostate massage is pleasurable, but it’s good to know more about your prostate and how it works before diving in. Did you know that your prostate helps produce a lot of the liquid that makes up your semen? Do you know it’s between the bladder and the rectum at the base of the penis? Knowledge is power and, in this case, pleasure too!
The dramatic monkeypox sex theories may not be 100 percent true, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t protect yourself during sexual activity. Luckily, solo prostate massage is extremely safe, and you can continue to enjoy full-body orgasms without putting yourself at risk.
As the number of cases of monkeypox continues to rise in the United States, you don’t have to give up on your pleasure and self-exploration (or your sexual health). Stay safe out there!