Mpox (formerly Monkeypox) is a viral infection. It is related to smallpox, but less severe. Until the current global outbreak started in May of 2022, human to human transmission of mpox had not been seen in Canada except for sporadic cases affecting travelers.
During the current global mpox outbreak, almost every case in British Columbia has been within sexual networks in the communities of gay, bi and queer men, and gender diverse people. Because much is yet to be uncovered about transmission of the mpox virus, there is not a lot of data to rely on which can seem scary and hard to plan for.
This resource compiles some of what we know, and some things that are still unclear to help make sense of what is going on with mpox across the province.
Stopping the Mpox Stigma
If we have learned anything from the HIV epidemic and the COVID-19 Pandemic, it is that stigma causes damage in our communities and creates barriers to care. We witnessed the anti-Asian hate/racism that causes pain, suffering, and community division. In the early days of HIV misinformation and stigmatizing beliefs lead to many people not receiving the care they needed.
Stigma can be created by:
- Slut shaming or making false connections between “promiscuity” and Mpox.
- Teasing friends about scars and marks on the body (e.g. ingrown hairs, bandaged cuts).
- Making homophobic comments about other people’s behaviours.
- Not supporting our friends who come into contact or are diagnosed with Mpox.
- Joking about mpox in our social groups or on social media.
- Teasing friends about having mpox.
- Making racist jokes or insinuations of any kind.
- Sharing or participating in racist discussions.
- Sharing misleading information via memes/articles etc.
Stigma can show up as:
- Avoiding testing because of fear of what our peers will say.
- Avoiding isolating due to lack of community support or fear of repercussions.
- Avoiding seeking care.
- Feeling anxiety and fear.
- Feeling terrified about violent racist attacks.
- Feeling suicidal due to terror and fear.
What Are the Symptoms of Mpox?
The most common symptoms of mpox include fever, headache, muscle aches, back pain, low energy, and swollen lymph nodes. This is followed or accompanied by the development of a grouping of lesions or rash which can last for two to three or four weeks. The rash can be found on the face, palms of the hands, soles of the feet, eyes, mouth, throat, groin, and genital and/or anal regions of the body. The number of lesions can range from one to many. Lesions begin flat, then fill with liquid before they crust over, dry up and scabs fall off, with a fresh layer of skin forming underneath.
Symptoms typically last two to three weeks and usually go away on their own or with supportive care, such as medication for pain or fever. People remain infectious until all of the lesions have crusted over, the scabs fallen off and a new layer of skin has formed underneath.
-World Health Organization & BC Centre for Disease Control