• Men who have sex with men should limit sexual partners as monkeypox spreads, the WHO chief said. 
  • 98% of monkeypox cases are within this group, though anybody can catch and spread it.
  • Monkeypox has been spreading around the world at an unprecedented rate, particularly in the US.

Men who have sex with men should consider limiting sexual partners in light of the monkeypox outbreak, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday. 

The best way to contain the outbreak and protect vulnerable people "is to reduce the risk of exposure. That means making safe choices for yourself and others," Tedros said. 

"For men who have sex with men, this includes, for the moment, reducing the number of sexual partners, reconsidering sex with new partners, and exchanging contact details with any new partners to enable follow-up if needed," he said.

Men who have sex with men is a blanket term that includes gay, bisexual, and heterosexual men.

98% of cases have been reported in this population. However, monkeypox can spread between any two people, regardless of sexuality.

Over 18,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported to the WHO from 78 countries, Tedros said.

Five deaths have been reported, per Tedros. 

The announcement came less than a week after the WHO declared monkeypox a public health emergency of international concern, its highest level of alert.

This outbreak has not been particularly lethal, but it sets itself apart by its scale. Historically, cases have tended to be limited to African countries.

Before the current outbreak, the most monkeypox had spread outside of the continent was a 300-case outbreak in the US.

Symptoms of monkeypox can extremely painful. About 10% of cases are admitted to the hospital to manage the pain, Tedros said. 

Symptoms of monkeypox include a rash, fever, and backache. Early symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, chills, and exhaustion.

Lesions can appear around anal and genital areas, which can easily be mistaken for a sexually transmitted disease, a large study of the symptoms in this current outbreak has found.

The virus is spreading mostly through close, intimate contact with someone who has monkeypox, per the CDC. People who have been exposed or are particularly vulnerable are recommended to receive a vaccine.

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