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Monkeypox is spreading through sex: Is it an STD? Here's what to know

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Monkeypox causes lesions that resemble pus-filled blisters, which eventually scab over. CDC/Getty Images

Monkeypox has been a hot topic of conversation, especially since the first probable case of monkeypox was discovered this week in New Jersey.

It was discovered that monkeypox has been spread through sexual intercourse in almost all recent cases throughout the globe.

This begs the question: Is monkeypox a sexually transmitted disease (STD)?

Here's what you need to know.

What is monkeypox? When was it first discovered?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), researchers first discovered monkeypox in 1958 when a "pox-like" outbreak appeared on monkeys being kept for research, which is how the disease "monkeypox" got its name.

But it was not until 1970 when the first human case of monkeypox surfaced in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Since then, monkeypox has surfaced in humans who have lived in or traveled to central and western African countries.

But the most recent cases of monkeypox have not been spread through travel to Africa. Most cases have come about without any direct links to Africa but through sexual contact.

Although many of the most recent cases "are within gay, bisexual men and other men who have sex with men," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky called for approaching the matter with "science" and not "stigma."

"While some groups may have a greater chance of exposure right now, infectious diseases do not care about state or international borders. They're not contained within social networks and the risk of exposure is not limited to any one particular group," she added.

Monkeypox is usually transmitted when someone comes into contact with an animal, another human, or materials contaminated with the virus, according to the CDC.

The virus can enter the body through broken skin, the respiratory tract, eyes, nose, or mouth.

If monkeypox can be spread through sex, is monkeypox an STD?

The World Health Organization (WHO) clarified in a recent meeting that while these recent cases of monkeypox can be spread through sex, it does not make it a sexually-transmitted infection.

"Many diseases can be spread through sexual contact. You could get a cough or a cold through sexual contact, but it doesn't mean that it's a sexually transmitted disease," said Andy Seale, who advises the WHO on sexually transmitted infections.

What are the symptoms of monkeypox in humans?

The symptoms of monkeypox are like a milder version of smallpox, except monkeypox causes swollen lymph nodes while smallpox does not.

According to the CDC, monkeypox starts out with the following symptoms:

One to three days within the onset of symptoms, such as a fever, patients then begin to develop a rash on the face before spreading elsewhere on the body.

The illness usually lasts for 2-4 weeks before it runs its course through the body. However, in some areas of the world, like Africa, the disease can be fatal.

The CDC states that 1 in 10 people in Africa who catch monkeypox die from it.

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