Since it first was identified in the U.S. last month, the monkeypox virus has spread rapidly across the country, especially among men who have sex with men.
Currently, there are at least 700 identified cases of monkeypox in more than half the states and Washington, D.C. Most patients with the disease experience flu-like symptoms like fever, body aches, chills, fatigues, and swollen lymph nodes. The disease may progress to rashes and lesions on the face, hands, rectum, and genital area. It typically spreads through skin-to-skin contact (and less so through objects and fabrics used by someone with the disease, as well as respiratory secretions from acts like kissing and talking at a close distance). Monkeypox is not as contagious as a disease like COVID-19 and fatality rates range from zero to 11 percent.
Information on precautions and vaccine availability is scant and scattered, with city, state, and federal health departments often sharing conflicting or confusing information. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control is only explicitly advising those with lesions or laboratory workers to get the ACAM2000 (smallpox) or JYNNEOS vaccines to protect them if they are potentially exposed to the virus, as well as advising those already with lesions to go to their health care provider. Typically, a monkeypox vaccine requires a second dose four to five weeks after the first.
The federal government on Tuesday announced an expansion of vaccine distribution, though eligibility is limited in most places to high-risk individuals. Most locals are encouraging only people with symptoms or thought to be exposed to get the vaccine; most require going to your local doctor while some places (like New York and D.C.) are offering appointments online.
If someone does contract monkeypox, it usually subsides within two to four weeks and can be managed with pain medication. But more severe cases may call for treatment with TPOXX, a prescription drug that is also used against smallpox. People with weakened immune systems due to HIV or another cause are at risk for severe symptoms.
Many areas with large populations of gay and bisexual men or visitors have stepped up with information. Here is what health officials are saying in seven of those cities. This story is developing and will be updated with relevant information.
Reports indicate monkeypox may have spread recently in Chicago following the International Mr. Leather conference in late May. The nation’s third-largest city has detailed information on how monkeypox spreads, what precautions to take, and what to do if you think you have it. There is no clear information on the city’s website on vaccine availability, so contact your doctor or health care provider if you have symptoms or believe you’ve been exposed.
Monkeypox has been found in about 75 people in Florida, mostly in the state’s south, according to recent health data from the state. Broward County, by far, has the most cases — Ft. Lauderdale and Wilton Manors are large centers of queer life and tourism. Miami-Dade county follows behind Broward in cases. In May, Broward health officials advises people with suspected cases of monkeypox to immediately contact their local health department or call (850) 245-4401.
Los Angeles/Palm Springs/San Francisco
California now has at least 141 cases of monkeypox, according to the Los Angeles Times. Health and LGBTQ+ activists are demanding more vaccines and more public outreach on the disease. L.A. officials recently received another 6,000 additional vaccine doses, according to L.A. County health director Barbara Ferrer. Eligibility for the vaccine is expected to increase in the coming dates. The health department there is already utilizing social media to get information out.
Health officials in Riverside County, which includes the gay mecca of Palm Springs, identified dozens of monkeypox cases. “If [people] want to get vaccinated at their health care provider, Riverside County Public Health will be able to get the vaccine to that provider within one day. If needed, the department will provide information on the vaccine and how to administer it,” reports the Desert Sun. More details from Riverside County here.
Two San Francisco area politicians, State Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblyman Matt Haney, released a statement blasting the federal government for not releasing enough vaccine doses:
“The bad news is that the federal government has once again had a public health failure, this time by failing to order enough vaccine doses to prepare for this foreseeable outbreak,” the pair stated. “The federal government needs to dramatically increase the supply of the vaccine and distribute it to impacted local communities as quickly as possible. We have no time to spare.”
Officials in the East Bay, which includes cities like Oakland and Berkeley, have set up a pop-clinic at Steamworks Baths in Berkeley. Back in San Francisco, the city is reporting about 40 cases as of July 5 and encouraging anyone who may have been exposed to quickly contact their health care provider.
New York City
As of this report, there are currently no appointments available for the monkeypox vaccine in New York City. The health department has relevant information for those who may be sick or exposed. As of this report, 160 people have tested positive for orthopoxvirus, which is likely monkeypox, in the nation’s largest city. Check @nycHealthy on Twitter for updates.
Ptown, currently awash in gay locals and tourists, is struggling to handle a growing outbreak. Provincetown town manager Alex Morse has stated on Facebook the following groups should be eligible for the vaccine, “Presumed contacts who meet the following criteria: Know that a sexual partner in the past 14 days was diagnosed with monkeypox; or had multiple sexual partners in the past 14 days in a jurisdiction with known monkeypox.” Initially, health officials advised only those at risk and with a Provincetown or Massachusetts address to seek the vaccine, but Morse is now advising all “visitors who have a Provincetown/MA address including guest houses, rentals and hotels” to seek the shot if they believe they have been exposed. It was also noted that the “vaccine is most effective given between known or suspected exposure and before symptoms begin.”
Call (508) 905-2888 for an appointment, or go directly to the Provincetown Health Center at 49 Harry Kemp Way. Appointments are available through July 14. More information for Massachusetts residents and visitors here.
The nation’s capital may be winning the game (coincidentally or not) when it comes to vaccine distribution. The city’s department of health has an appointment portal for those who need it. City officials are promoting the vaccine among men who have sex with men and encouraging sexually-active queer men to get it if supply allows, MetroWeekly reports.