Monkeypox is spreading in New York, making education urgent

Grindr, a social networking app, sent a pop-up message to millions of European and American users about the risk of monkeypox. A sex party organizer in New York asked guests to examine their wounds before showing them. And the city’s main pride celebration organizers posted a MonkeyPix notice on their Instagram account on Sunday.

As thousands of people gather in New York City and elsewhere to celebrate Pride this month, city and federal officials, health lawyers and party organizers are rushing to spread the growing emergency health alert about the dangers of monkeypox.

“Beware, but don’t panic,” said Jason Ciancioto, vice president of communications and policy at Gay Men’s Health Crisis, summarizing the group’s message.

The chronic virus is now spreading worldwide in some parts of Africa and could infect anyone, at the moment it is spreading through a network of men who have sex primarily with men, officials say.

Since May 13, when the first outbreak was reported in Europe, more than 2,000 people have been infected in 35 countries outside Africa. As of Wednesday, 16 of the 84 cases nationwide have been identified in New York City. The latest developments in New York are not related to travel, suggesting that person-to-person transmission is occurring in New York City, the city’s health department said.

Although the raw numbers are still low, epidemiologists are concerned about the level of infection worldwide and the cases are cropping up without clear links to each other, suggesting a wider spread. The World Health Organization will meet next week to determine whether the MonkeyPix is ​​now eligible for the Global Health Emergency.

Monkeypox, named because it was first discovered by European researchers in 1958 in captive monkeys, can infect anyone regardless of gender, age or sexual orientation. Although it is most often spread through direct contact with wounds, it can also be spread through shared objects such as towels, as well as through droplets emitted when talking, coughing or sneezing.

Scientists believe that it can also be transmitted through tiny aerosol particles, although this will probably require long-term close contact. In general, the virus is much less contagious than Kovid-19.

Monkeypox has killed at least 72 people this year in African countries where the virus has spread, local WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanam Ghebreysas said on Tuesday, but no other deaths have been linked to the global outbreak outside Africa.

The first 10 cases in New York were detected in men between the ages of 27 and 50, and most were identified as men who had sex with men following a global pattern, according to the city’s health department. Mild symptoms have been reported in most parts of New York, officials say, but even mild cases can cause itching and a painful rash that lasts two to four weeks.

Public awareness of the outbreak, which will lead to further demand for testing, is still in its infancy, and the virus sometimes causes only a few lesions in the genitals, which can make it difficult to distinguish it from other sexually transmitted diseases. Antivirals are available in addition to the two vaccines, although vaccines are currently being offered in the United States to prevent the identification of initially identified or suspected cases.

Health officials said in an interview that it was a good time to raise awareness among the LGBTQ community. More broadly, organizers and health officials do not want to hinder their positive messages about pride and sexual identity.

Working with LGBTQ community advocates and partners, federal and local health officials have begun creating social media posts in recent weeks, writing fact sheets and posting pictures to help people find out what pox looks like.

Proud rallies are also coming at a crucial time, when there is still a possibility that aggressive public health measures could control monkeypox, but increased contact during celebrations could lead to the spread of additional diseases, especially if people are not educated about the virus.

“Each of us has to increase their game, because if we are going to hold it, we need a real ramping-up of effort across the board.,Greg Gonsalves, a longtime AIDS worker and epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health, said in an interview. “We’re walking the line between control and expansion, and control will get better.”

The focus of health officials right now is on how the disease is transmitted – primarily through skin-to-skin contact – and to ask people to take care if they feel rash or sick. Although the messages specifically target the gay and bisexual community, public health officials insist anyone could be infected.

Although the current risk for the general population is low, it could increase if the virus establishes itself in the United States and other countries outside Africa, infecting more people, the WHO warned in a recent update. The agency is also working on changing the name of the virus, which they acknowledge is spreading the stigma surrounding it.

Nevertheless, many health experts warn that public health messages, which are now mostly online, need to move faster and that education alone will not be enough to stem the tide.

Dr. Carlos del Rio, chair of the global health department at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, says all aspects of the monkeypox response should be further enhanced, from education to the identification of infected people to case detection. President of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

“To contain it, we need to act quickly,” he said. “I wish we could do more.”

Virus testing is still rare in the United States. As of June 7, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has conducted 297 tests for orthopoxivirus, a family of viruses that belong to the monkeypox.

Public health experts warn that the CDC’s centralized approach could discourage more extensive testing, creating an echo of test failure that slowed the nation’s response to Covid-19 in February 2020.

Testing is currently done in two stages: About 70 public health labs across the country are allowed to perform an initial orthopoxvirus PCR test, but the final diagnosis of monkeypox is made only by the Atlanta CDC Lab. Commercial laboratories still cannot test for the virus. There is no rapid or antigen test for monkeypox, although it can be made like Covid, said Dr. J. Verma, director of the Cornell Center for Pandemic Prevention and Response.

Mark Harrington, executive director of Treatment Action Group and longtime AIDS activist, said: “Without the means to illuminate it, we are once again caught up in a global epidemic with our pants that we were not prepared for.” , Who called for improvement in the test MonkeyPix Webinar Hosted by Manhattan Borough President on Monday.

Some aspects of the federal response have been praised by the LGBTQ community. The CDC, for example, recently released a sex-positive information sheet on social gatherings and safe sex, which instead of telling everyone to stay home, has specific tips to avoid monkeypix, such as keeping clothes on during sex and not kissing.

“Some people are concerned that this is happening in a time of pride,” said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, director of HIV / AIDS prevention at CDC and one of the organization’s leaders in the MonkeyPix response. “I can’t Imagine for a second you were transposed into the karmic driven world of Earl. “

This month’s parade and open-air events are “not likely to spread the virus,” said Mr. Cianciotto of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, so people should not be afraid to participate. “And for clubs that are partying with people who have close physical contact, or who are enjoying intimacy with others, they need information on what to look for and how to get help.”

Yet, as the urgency of education grows, so does the scale of other aspects of the response, such as increased access to testing and vaccinations for those who consider themselves high-risk, says Joseph Osmonson, a microbiologist at New York University who is a homosexual and queer activist. They also talk regularly with decision makers about feedback.

He and other activists are working to educate the LGBTQ community about the virus through their own channel – creating, for example, messages that sex party promoters can distribute to attendees that contain pictures of MonkeyPix wounds.

“When I talk to my friends about the well community, we want intervention,” said Dr. Osmundson. “We don’t want monkeypox. Where we meet for joy and companionship, we do not want to stop them, number one. And we like to go to those places with as little concern as possible, and as little risk as possible. “

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