Monkeypox has spread to New York, and education is urgently needed

The social networking app Grindr has sent a pop-up message about the risk of monkeypox to millions of Western users. The organizers of the New York sex party asked the invitees to check for lesions themselves before appearing. And the organizers of the city’s major pride celebrations posted a monkeypox notice on their Instagram account on Sunday.

With hundreds of thousands of people gathering in New York City and elsewhere to celebrate pride this month, city and federal authorities, health advocates, and party organizers are issuing increasingly urgent health warnings about the risk of monkeypox. I’m in a hurry to spread it.

“Be careful, but don’t panic,” said Jason Cyanchot, vice president of communication and policy for the health crisis of gay men, summarizing the message the group is trying to convey.

The virus, which has been prevalent in parts of Africa for a long time, is now transmitted worldwide and can infect anyone, but at this time it is spread primarily through a network of men who have sex with men. Officials say they are.

Since May 13, when the first case of outbreak in Europe was reported, more than 2,000 people have been diagnosed with the virus in 35 countries outside Africa. As of Wednesday, 16 cases were confirmed in New York City, out of 84 cases nationwide. The recent New York incident has nothing to do with travel and suggests that there is a human-to-human transmission in New York City, the City Health Department said.

Although raw numbers are still low, epidemiologists are concerned about global levels of infection and the fact that cases occur in a state that is not clearly related to each other, suggesting a broader spread. increase. The World Health Organization will meet next week to determine if monkeypox is eligible for a global health emergency.

Monkeypox is so named because it was first discovered in monkeys captured by European researchers in 1958, and can infect anyone, regardless of gender, age, or sexual orientation. It spreads primarily through direct contact with the lesion, but can also spread through shared objects such as towels and also by droplets emitted when talking, coughing, or sneezing.

Scientists believe that it can also be transmitted through small aerosol particles, but it will probably require long-term close contact. In general, viruses are much less contagious than Covid-19.

Monkeypox has killed at least 72 people this year in African countries where the virus is endemic, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Gebreez said Tuesday, but worldwide outside Africa. No other deaths are clearly associated with the outbreak.

The first 10 cases in New York were all detected in men between the ages of 27 and 50, and according to the city’s health department, most were identified as men having sex with men, according to a global pattern. Officials said most of the cases in New York caused mild symptoms, but even mild cases can be accompanied by an itchy and painful rash that lasts 2-4 weeks.

Public awareness of outbreaks, which leads to more testing demand, is still in its infancy, and the virus can cause only minor lesions in the genital area, which can make it difficult to distinguish from other sexually transmitted diseases. I have. Two vaccines and antivirals are available, but at present, vaccines are provided primarily for close contact with cases identified or suspected in the United States.

The Pride Parade is a great opportunity to raise awareness among the most endangered LGBTQ communities, health officials said in an interview. More broadly, organizers and health authorities do not want to dampen positive messages about pride celebrations and sexual identities.

Working with supporters and partners in the LGBTQ community, federal and local health authorities have been writing social media posts, fact sheets, and pox to help people know what to look for in recent weeks. I started posting images of the appearance of.

Pride gatherings are also coming at an important time. Although active public health activities may still control monkeypox, increased contact at celebrations can lead to further spread of the disease, especially if people are not educated about the virus.

“We all need to step up the game, because if we can contain it, we really need to step up our overall efforts.,Greg Gonzalves, a longtime AIDS activist and epidemiologist at the Graduate School of Public Health, said in an interview. “We are walking on the border between containment and sustained spread, and containment will be better.”

Health officials are currently to provide information on how the disease is transmitted, primarily through skin-to-skin contact, and encourage people to seek treatment if they have a rash or feel unwell. The message is specifically targeted at gay and bisexual communities, but public health officials also emphasize that anyone can be infected.

The current risk to the general public remains low, but WHO warns in a recent update that the virus could spread in countries other than the United States and Africa and infect a wider range of people, increasing the risk. did. Organizations are also working on renaming the virus, admitting that the stigma surrounding the virus may be increasing.

Still, many health professionals warn that public health messages, which are now mostly online, need to move faster, and education alone is not enough to stop the outbreak.

Dr. Carlos del Rio, Dean of Global Health at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, said all aspects of the monkeypox response need to be enhanced, from education to case identification and isolation of infected individuals. President of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

“We must act swiftly to contain this,” he said. “I wish I had done more”

Testing for viruses remains rare in the United States. As of June 7, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted 297 tests against the orthopox virus, a family of viruses to which monkeypox belongs.

Public health experts say the CDC’s centralized approach could discourage broader testing and create a response to the test’s blunder that delayed the country’s response to Covid-19 in February 2020. I’m warning you.

Currently, the inspection is done in two stages. Approximately 70 public health laboratories nationwide are allowed to perform the first orthopoxvirus PCR test, but the final diagnosis of monkeypox is made only by the CDC laboratory in Atlanta. Commercial laboratories are not yet able to test the virus. Dr. Jay Valma, director of the Pandemic Prevention and Response Center at Cornell University, does not have a rapid antigenic test for monkeypox, but can develop it as in the case of Covid.

“While it doesn’t make sense to downplay this, we were once again caught up in an unprepared pandemic,” said Mark, executive director and longtime AIDS activist of the Treatment Behavior Group.・ Harrington states. Promoted improvements in testing at Monkeypox webinar Organized by Mayor Manhattan on Monday.

Some aspects of the federal response have been admired by the LGBTQ community. For example, the CDC recently released a Sex-Positive Fact Sheet on social gatherings and safer sex. This includes specific tips for avoiding monkeypox, such as staying dressed and not kissing during sex, rather than telling everyone to stay home.

“Some people are worried that this is happening during pride,” said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, head of HIV / AIDS prevention at the CDC and leader of the authorities’ monkeypox response. “I can not do it Imagine a better time to send a message about this. “

This month’s parades and outdoor events are “not a place for the virus to spread,” said Chansiot of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, so people shouldn’t be afraid to attend them. “And when it comes to clubs that have parties with closer physical contact, or people who enjoy being with others in an intimate way, what they care about and how You need to get information about what to get help with. “

Still, just as the urgency for education has increased, there has been little to expand other aspects of the response, such as increased access to testing and vaccination for those who consider themselves at high risk. , Said microbiologist Joseph Osmundson. New York University, one of a group of gay and queer activists, regularly discusses responses with decision makers.

He and other activists are also working to educate the LGBTQ community about viruses through their own channels. For example, create a message that sex party promoters can distribute to participants, including photos of monkeypox lesions.

“When you talk to friends in the queer community, you need intervention,” said Dr. Ottoman. “I don’t want monkeypox. Where we meet for joy and dating, we don’t want them to be closed, number one. And we take risks as little as possible. I like to get into these spaces to a minimum. “

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