‘Anyone can get monkeypox’: experts emphasize science-first messaging

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Experts emphasize science-first monkeypox messaging
Now that Alberta is confirming a second case of monkeypox in the province, experts are urging people continue to lead with the science and avoid any stigmatization. Kim Smith reports. – Jun 8, 2022

After Alberta identified its second case of monkeypox, experts weighed in on a continued push to ensure the messaging does not stigmatize any particular group.

“It’s always really important to lead with the headline and the headline is that anyone can get monkeypox,” said Timothy Caulfield, a Canada Research Chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta.

“This is about close contact. And then perhaps follow with the reality of the particular communities that right now might be at increased risk,” Caulfield said.

Caulfield said Alberta and other jurisdictions are doing a good job at ensuring the information is communicated quickly with an emphasis on science-first messaging.

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On Tuesday evening, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw posted on social media, alerting the public that a second case had been identified.

She also said the poxvirus is “predominantly” spread via close physical skin-to-skin contact, “which is why it can be spread to sexual partners. While monkeypox is not an STI, the majority of global cases to date have been among men who have reported intimate relations with other men.”

READ MORE: Alberta detects second case of monkeypox

Caulfield said the messaging around the virus can be challenging to ensure the information is being communicated properly without stigmatizing one particular group.

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“We need to ensure that those communities know they might be at heightened risk, but we have to make sure that messaging doesn’t stigmatize those communities for unscientific reasons,” Caulfield said.

Click to play video: 'WHO doesn’t recommend mass vaccination against monkeypox: director-general'
WHO doesn’t recommend mass vaccination against monkeypox: director-general

Kristopher Wells, Canada Research Chair for the public understanding of sexual and gender minority youth at MacEwan University, said many lessons were learned from the COVID-19 pandemic regarding public messaging and strategies.

He said we need to ensure the messaging is nuanced and targeted while avoiding blame or shame.

“We want to ensure that we’re not stereotyping. It’s really important for people to understand that monkeypox is not based on a person’s sexual orientation or their identity,” Wells said.

“If people think monkeypox is only impacting gay communities, people are not going to take measures to prevent themselves from its spread.”

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Wells said Alberta Health is doing a good job of ensuring the messaging is clear while also reaching out to communities particularly impacted.

“Let’s face it, this is about harm reduction and trying to get the right information to the right group of individuals that may have the greatest risk for exposure and transmission,” Wells said.

Monkeypox cases have been identified in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia since this year’s outbreak began.

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