After the Covid-19 pandemic, the world, and the United States, in particular, is now up against a couple of new threats: 1) a possible STD epidemic and 2) a substantial rise in the diagnosed cases of monkeypox. But are these two possible epidemics related? And can monkeypox make you more vulnerable to acquiring STDs?
The short answer to this question is no. However, a little depth of research may reveal that there is, in fact, no conclusive evidence that monkeypox can’t make you more vulnerable to other STDs. Monkeypox itself is not an actual sexually transmitted disease – at least not in the classical sense. However, like any other disease process, monkeypox can bring down an individual’s immunity and potentially make them more susceptible to dangerous infections, like HIV or syphilis. Moreover, the most commonly reported manner for monkeypox transmission, i.e. sexual intercourse, is also the single largest risk factor for STD transmission as well.
It’s clear that while monkeypox may not be directly involved with the rapid rise in STD reports across the United States, there are some, however indirect, valid connections between the two recent problems.
DOES HAVING MONKEYPOX MAKE YOU VULNERABLE TO STDS?
Before we move on to the question at hand, it is best to know a little more about the disease that has caused the WHO to announce a global emergency in the wake of the rising number of reported cases just recently.
Monkeypox is a contagious disease that is caused by the monkeypox virus. This disease spreads through direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person and lasts about 4-5 weeks. Monkeypox does not usually cause a severe illness on its own, and the infection resolves on its own after the symptomatic period is over.
Recently, in the United States especially, the number of reported cases of monkeypox has been on the rise. However, along with the reported cases of monkeypox, the number of reported cases of some STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and even HIV has also been increasing. The two epidemics arising simultaneously do invite invoking remarks about a similarity or a connection, but there is no conclusive evidence that there is one.
Monkeypox, as mentioned before, spreads through direct contact with an infected person. While recent data trends show that 98% of monkeypox transmission has occurred among people who are highly sexually active, this trend could simply be explained by the fact that sex requires a lot of physical contact, which facilitates the transmission of the monkeypox virus. However, a lack of connection between monkeypox and STDs does not rule out the possibility of monkeypox making individuals more susceptible to acquiring STDs.
Infectious states in human beings are characterized by lowered immunity levels and the resultant vulnerability toward other opportunistic infections. Monkeypox, like any other infection on the planet, potentially lowers a person’s immunity to the point where they become ill and effectively susceptible to other infections. Thus, a person with monkeypox may become more susceptible to acquiring STDs which in this case may act as opportunistic infections. Moreover, sexual intercourse, which involves a lot of close direct contact, acts as a risk factor for the transmission of both monkeypox and STDs – in different manners, of course.
However, a lot more is needed for a person infected with monkeypox to become more susceptible to STDs and actually acquire them. An individual would have to have at least a few high-risk behaviors that are associated with an increased risk of acquiring STDs. These high-risk behaviors include:
- Having multiple sexual partners
- Having unprotected sex with multiple sexual partners
- Not getting tested for STDs regularly
- Using IV needles and sharing them with other individuals as well
As is evident, having monkeypox alone could theoretically increase a person’s chances of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases. However, a person’s chances of acquiring STDs simply due to their lowered immunity are very slim as they would have to have certain high-risk behaviors adapted into their lifestyle as well.
CAN MONKEYPOX RESEMBLE OTHER STDS?
Speaking of monkeypox and STDs, it is very common for people to get scared of their symptoms when they acquire a monkeypox infection. This scare is usually because many of the monkeypox symptoms actually resemble those of STDs.
For example, the characteristic oral or genital rash that people with a monkeypox infection develop eerily resembles the rash associated with gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes and even syphilis. Other than the skin rash, many people also develop rectal pain, which is also a common symptom with many STDs.
Other nonspecific symptoms of monkeypox infection, including fatigue, headaches, and body aches, can also stir worries in people’s minds as these symptoms also frequently appear in individuals with HIV.
While the symptoms of a monkeypox infection may resemble those of an STD, it is nothing to worry about as monkeypox is simply a self-resolving mild infection that, unlike many STDs, lasts for about 3-4 weeks. If you have any of the symptoms listed above, the first thing you need to do is not panic and simply visit your doctor for a complete health checkup.
MONKEYPOX AND SARS –CoV-2
Monkeypox cases have recently sprung up in the developed world and especially in the United States of America just recently in the wake of the global COIVD-19 pandemic. During these times of rapidly reported infections, it is only logical to question whether monkeypox infections can coexist with COVID-19 in individuals.
While there haven’t been many instances, there are some published reports discussing coinfections of monkeypox and COVID-19 in individuals. In fact, this case report highlights one of the very first instances where an individual experienced a coinfection of monkeypox and COVID-19. Since both of these infections are transmitted through close contact, it is very easy to figure out how such a coinfection would work. Moreover, continuing our discussion of monkeypox and STDs, the individual case discussed in this very case report also highlights how this person also had HIV while having COVID-19 and monkeypox.
While this report alone does not amount to conclusive evidence that monkeypox infections put individuals at a greater risk of acquiring either other STDs or COVID-19 infections, it is to say that such an instance is theoretically possible and not a far-fetched idea. However, for such a unique combination of infections to coexist, a certain number of requirements would have to be fulfilled first. Thus, monkeypox infections coexisting with STDs and COVID-19 are not completely out of the question, but it is a difficult scenario to occur – at least at the moment.