The monkeypox outbreak was likely triggered by sex at two European raves

Monkeypox is likely spread through sex at 2 raves in Europe

Experts say sexual activity makes spreading the virus much easier (Picture: Getty)

The growing global outbreak of monkeypox cases is a sexual transmission likely linked to sexual activity at two raves in Europe, a top expert said.

dr David Heymann, a senior adviser to the World Health Organization, said the outbreak could best be described as a “random event”.

Health officials have not ruled out other explanations, but the leading theory to explain the outbreak is sexual transmission at two erotic parties in Spain and Belgium, he added.

dr Heymann said: “We know that monkeypox can spread when there is close contact with the lesions of an infected person, and it appears that sexual contact has now increased this transmission.”

There are now around 200 confirmed and suspected cases in a dozen countries, including 57 in the UK.

According to the WHO, the cases spread mainly through sexual contact between men.

Cases of monkeypox have been rare outside of central and west Africa, where they are endemic in animals, and have never progressed to a full outbreak.

The head of the WHO smallpox research team said: “We have seen a few cases in Europe over the past five years, only among travellers, but this is the first time we are seeing cases in many countries at the same time in people who have not traveled to the endemic areas of Africa are.’

In this handout graphic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of one of the first known cases of the monkeypox virus can be seen on a patient's hand on June 5, 2003. (CDC/Getty Images/TNS)

The virus can cause lesions on the skin, although most cases have been mild (Image: TNS)

The United Nations AIDS agency has warned that racist and homophobic fear-mongering could undermine efforts to tackle the virus.

UNAIDS emphasized that all types of close physical contact can cause transmission, so the virus can affect anyone.

This includes contact with a sick person and their belongings such as clothing or bed linen.

The agency’s Deputy Executive Director Matthew Kavanagh said: “Stigma and finger pointing undermines confidence and the ability to respond effectively to outbreaks like this.

“Experience shows that stigmatizing rhetoric can quickly override evidence-based responses by fueling cycles of fear, driving people away from health services, hampering efforts to identify cases and promoting ineffective punitive measures.”


Smallpox vaccines are known to be effective against monkeypox (Image: AFP)

Mike Skinner, virologist at Imperial College London. added, “Sexual activity inherently involves intimate contact, which one would expect to increase the likelihood of transmission, regardless of a person’s sexual orientation and regardless of the mode of transmission.”

According to health officials, there is a “high probability” that the virus will spread further through “close contact”.

So far, cases have been mild, no deaths have been reported, and smallpox vaccines are known to be effective against the disease.

Symptoms usually include fever, chills, skin rash, and lesions on the face or genitals.

Most patients recover within weeks without hospital treatment, and new antiviral drugs for monkeypox are in development.

Around 6% of all cases in recent years have been fatal.

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Justin Scacco

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