Monkeypox outbreak: Grindr issues monkeypox warning to its users, urges men to be aware of rash

Online dating app Grindr has issued an alert for monkeypox, urging its LGBTQI+ community to be aware of the viral disease's tell-tale rash as the outbreak continues to spread to non-endemic countries.

The location-based social networking platform is the world's largest and most popular app for gay, bisexual, trans and queer people, as well as men who have sex with men - a group that has been disproportionately affected by the outbreak.

Late on Tuesday (local time), it was confirmed that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had become the first Gulf state to record a case of monkeypox, a viral disease which is endemic in parts of central and western Africa and was first identified in laboratory monkeys.

The Czech Republic and Slovenia also reported their first cases on Tuesday (local time), joining 18 other non-African nations that have detected the virus in the last fortnight, with infections so far reported in Europe, Australia and America. That number is expected to rise, but experts say the overall risk to the general population remains low.

Symptoms of monkeypox include a fever and a tell-tale rash, but the infection is typically mild. The virus can spread through close contact with a sick person, including touching contaminated clothing, bedding or utensils.

Scientists currently believe the international outbreak is linked to two raves in Belgium and Spain. Cases of the disease have already been traced back to Maspalomas Pride, a gay pride festival that was held in Gran Canaria - one of Spain's Canary Islands - and attended by up to 80,000 people between May 5 and May 15. Several infections in Belgium have also been linked to Darklands, a large-scale fetish festival in Antwerp held between May 5 and May 8. Organisers of the festival have since said there is "reason to assume" an attendee was infected with monkeypox.

The viral disease is disproportionately affecting men who have sex with men.
The viral disease is disproportionately affecting men who have sex with men. Photo credit: Getty Images

On Tuesday night (local time), Grindr issued a warning to its European user-base, advising people to contact their sexual health provider if they, or any recent sexual partners, have had unusual sores or rashes. 

The warning from Grindr, which has partnered with health agencies in the UK and European Union, also directed its users to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control's (ECDC) official page on monkeypox. According to media outlets who viewed the alert, it also shared a link to a webpage which allows users to find their local healthcare provider, in case they do not have their own doctor.

"The monkeypox virus is spreading in Europe, particularly among men who have sex with men," the alert said, according to media who viewed the notification.

"It is transmitted through close contact, like during sexual intercourse or through contaminated bedding [or] sex toys.

"If you or any recent (last 21 days) partner have unusual sores or rash, contact your sexual health provider or local health provider."

A spokesperson for Grindr told the Daily Mail's MailOnline that the aim of the alert, which was issued in 13 languages, was to help its users "understand the situation and find testing providers".

The app is also reportedly partnering with health leaders in the US to communicate public health advice around monkeypox to its American user-base.

The ECDC's official information page on the virus advises that "men who have sex with other men that engage in casual sex, or who have multiple sexual partners" should be vigilant and make sure they are taking necessary precautions.

The ECDC urges anyone with tell-tale symptoms of monkeypox to seek specialist care and "abstain from sexual activities or any other type of activities involving close contact until monkeypox is either excluded or the infection is resolved".

The disease, which was first detected in laboratory monkeys in the late 1950s, is typically mild but can cause severe illness in some cases. The disease can be fatal in up to 10 percent of those who contract it. While the disease can be fatal in up to 10 percent of those who contract it, the milder strain circulating in the current outbreak is understood to kill one in 100 cases.

"Monkeypox (MPX) does not spread easily between people. Human-to-human transmission occurs through close contact with infectious material from skin lesions of an infected person, through respiratory droplets in prolonged face-to-face contact, and through fomites. The predominance, in the current outbreak, of diagnosed human MPX cases among men having sex with men (MSM), and the nature of the presenting lesions in some cases, suggest transmission occurred during sexual intercourse," says the ECDC's risk assessment of the monkeypox multi-country outbreak, published on May 23.

"Based on ECDC's epidemiological assessment, the likelihood of MPX spreading in persons having multiple sexual partners in the EU/EEA is considered high. Although most cases in current outbreaks have presented with mild disease symptoms, monkeypox virus (MPXV) may cause severe disease in certain population groups (young children, pregnant women, immunosuppressed persons).

"However, the likelihood of cases with severe morbidity cannot be accurately estimated yet. The overall risk is assessed as moderate for persons having multiple sexual partners (including some groups of MSM) and low for the broader population."

Monkeypox has an incubation period of anywhere up to 21 days, meaning it can take up to three weeks for symptoms to appear. Common symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion.

People infected with monkeypox may also develop a tell-tale rash that often begins on the face before spreading to other areas of the body, including the genitals. The rash, which can resemble chickenpox or syphilis, may form scabs which eventually fall off.

England confirmed another 14 cases of monkeypox on Tuesday (local time), with 71 infections now detected across the United Kingdom. Seventy have been logged in England since the first case was publicised on May 7, while Scotland has recorded one. Officials have said a "notable proportion" of the infections have occurred among gay and bisexual men.

As reported by the Daily Mail, teams from the UK Health Security Agency are currently contacting people considered to be high-risk contacts of confirmed cases. Contacts are advised to self-isolate at home for three weeks and avoid contact with children.

High-risk contacts, including workers at the National Health Service, are also being offered the Imvanex vaccine, which was designed for smallpox. Because the viruses are so similar, the vaccine is said to be up to 85 percent effective against monkeypox.