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Latinos and other minority groups are disproportionately contracting the monkeypox virus, according to a recent report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The monkeypox virus, which began infecting Americans in May 2022, has since been declared a global emergency by the World Health Organization and a public health emergency by the Biden-Harris Administration.
As of August 12, 2022 there are 10,768 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the US.
Monkeypox Cases by Race/Ethnicity
99% of monkeypox cases are occurring in men. Of those, 94% of men report male-to-male sexual or close intimate contact within three weeks before experiencing symptoms.
41% of monkeypox cases were among Whites, 28% among Latinos, and 26% among Blacks, according to the CDC report.
Considering Latinos make up just 18.9% of the US population, the amount of monkeypox cases occurring in Latinos is concerning.
“Although the largest proportion of cases have occurred in White persons, Black and Hispanic persons, who represent approximately one third (34%) of the general population, accounted for more than one half (54%) of monkeypox cases in persons for whom information on race and ethnicity is available,” the report stated.
Monkeypox Vaccine Shortage
In some areas of the country, Latinos are being hit harder by monkeypox.
For example, in San Francisco, Latinos account for almost 30% of all cases in the city even though they make up just 15% of the population.
San Francisco, like much of the country, is feeling the effects of the monkeypox vaccine shortage, which is expected to last for months.
Vaccines are vital to protect high-risk individuals, such as men who have sex with men, and vulnerable patients with HIV and other immune-weakening conditions.
To help slow the spread of the virus amid a vaccine shortage, federal officials are considering a dose-sparing strategy, in which vaccines each contain just one-fifth of a single dose.
However, more vaccines are becoming available, as officials are eager to end the outbreak.
“Our goal is to stay ahead of this virus and end this outbreak. We have a strategy to deploy these additional vaccine doses in a way that protects those at risk and limits the spread of the virus, while also working with states to ensure equitable and fair distribution,” US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a press release.
Should I Be Concerned About Monkeypox?
If you are a sexually active man who has sex with men, you are at high risk for contracting monkeypox.
“There’s nothing specific about monkeypox that would make it more common in men who have sex with men,” Dr. Roy Gulick, chief of infectious disease at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian, told the New York Times. “It’s just a virus that found its way into that community of individuals.”
Because of the rapid spread of the monkeypox virus, some may akin this outbreak to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, “COVID is spread by respiratory route and is highly infectious. This doesn’t appear to be the case with the monkeypox,” Dr. Martin Hirsch of Massachusetts General Hospital told Reuters.
The WHO reports that the risk of contracting monkeypox is moderate globally, except in Europe, where the risk is high.
Even still, you shouldn’t be afraid to leave your house and perform daily activities.
You are unlikely to get monkeypox in shared spaces like schools and offices, or by trying on clothes in stores, Dr. Seth Blumberg, an expert in infectious diseases at the University of California, San Francisco, told the New York Times.
Monkeypox Infection Control
As monkeypox cases unfold, the CDC is working to ensure equity for Latinos and all people in monkeypox testing, treatment, and prevention, according to the report.
Additionally, officials are urging the public not to stigmatize monkeypox, as this could impede infection control efforts.
“It’s a fine line that many people are walking right now,” Perry Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health told the New York Times. “The minute you say it’s a disease that only gay men get, it can become stigmatized, because unlike heterosexual sex, homosexual sex tends to be stigmatized by a portion of the population in the United States.”
You can avoid contracting monkeypox with CDC-recommended precautions:
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox
- Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox
- Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with monkeypox
- Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with monkeypox
- Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- If you suspect you may be sick with monkeypox, isolate at home in a separate room or area away from people or pets you live with and contact your healthcare provider.
What Can You Do to Help?
Vaccines remain a key to infection control for monkeypox.
Vaccines can also help prevent severe COVID-19 infection and even some cancers. Vaccines are safe and effective.
But vaccine uptake is hindered by mistrust and misinformation, especially among Latinos.
You can help by sharing our stories!
To help move Latinos from vaccine uncertainty to vaccine confidence, Salud America! is uplifting the stories of real Latinos who overcame misinformation, got the COVID-19 vaccine, reconnected with family, and are helping end the pandemic and variants like Delta and Omicron.
For example, Rosa Herrera read misinformation on Facebook that the COVID-19 vaccine would inject her with a microchip.
What changed her heart to get the vaccine?
After researching and learning that the vaccine is safe, she got vaccinated, and she’s glad she did.
“I’m able to see my grandkids and my kids here. It gives you more freedom,” Herrera said.