• Many monkeypox cases have been found in men who have sex with men
  • Epidemiologists studied cases from 43 regions in 16 countries
  • Outbreak may have originated in mid-spring gatherings of gay and bisexual men

Monkeypox cases have been reported disproportionately in men who have sex with other men, according to a new study.

WHO has declared monkeypox a global health emergency as it is rapidly spreading across the world, making its presence known in more than 70 countries. So far, 2,891 cases of the disease, which is endemic to Africa, have been reported in the United States.

The latest study suggests that the outbreak is being driven by same-sex sexual contact between men. Epidemiologists say the monkeypox outbreak could be pinpointed to gatherings of gay and bisexual men in Europe in mid-spring.

Out of the 528 confirmed cases reviewed, 98% of the infections were in gay or bisexual men and the median age was 38 years. The cases were diagnosed between April 27 and June 24.

"These data point clearly to the fact that infections are so far almost exclusively occurring among men who have sex with men," said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Brown University. "And the clinical presentation of these infections suggest that sexual transmission, not just close physical contact, maybe helping spread the virus among this population."

The research team studied cases from 43 sites in 16 countries.

"This large, multicountry study provides the most complete set of clinical and demographic data on monkeypox cases occurring outside endemic areas," added Nuzzo, who was not involved in the study.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, puts the infections' incubation period at an average of seven days. It also threw light on some little-known symptoms of the disease. Monkeypox is known to be mild, with symptoms subsiding within a few weeks on its own. However, the study found that it can cause intense pain, with some people requiring hospitalization for pain alleviation.

"We have seen patients with severe rectal pain that worsens every time they go to the bathroom, genital pain every time they urinate and throat pain every time they swallow," noted Dr. Jason Zucker, an infectious disease specialist at Columbia University Department of Medicine. Zucker was also not involved in the study.

The WHO is now aware of 9,200 monkeypox cases in 63 countries
The WHO is now aware of 9,200 monkeypox cases in 63 countries Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via AFP / Cynthia S. Goldsmith