THE EKLUND ǀ GOMES TEAM

No Monkey Business with Monkey Pox in NYC

By Kambiz Shekdar, Ph.D.

This article provides an overview of current information and guidance from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on Monkey Pox. Access to this information in a timely and complete manner to empower people in New York City—which is an epicenter of the latest emerging pandemic—could make a difference in the health of the community, and in particular among the city’s LGBTQ+ community.

New York City leads the nation in Monkey Pox cases. According to the CDC and the NYC Department of Health, 1,092 of a total of 4,629 cases nationwide as of July 28, 2022, are in New York City. Of these, 1,068 are among men and 3 are among women (the remaining 21 cases are among transgender, non-binary or unknown individuals). In cases where sexuality has been reported, 97% of Monkey Pox cases are among the LGBTQ+ community and 3% are in the straight community.

On July 23, 2022, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, declared the current Monkey Pox outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Five days later, WHO advised that men who have sex with men temporarily limit theur number of sexual partners. Men who have sex with men account for 98% of cases worldwide.

The following guidance is taken directly from NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygine (NYDOH) at nyc.gov/site/doh/health/health-topics/monkeypox.page:

COMMON SYMPTOMS:

  • The most common symptom of Monkey Pox is a rash or sores over the whole body or certain parts including inside the mouth, genitals or anus for two to four weeks.
  • Scarring of the eye, mouth, anus or urethra can also occur.

MONKEY POX MODE OF TRANSMISSION:

  • Sex including oral, anal and vaginal sex.
  • Hugging, kissing, cuddling and massage.
  • Coming in contact with bedding or other items that have the virus on them during or after intimate activity.
  • Other intimate activities.

MONKEY POX INFECTION RISK & PREVENTION:

  • Having sex or other intimate contact with multiple or anonymous people (such as those met through social media, dating apps, or at parties) can increase your risk of exposures.
  • Clubs, raves, saunas, sex parties and other places with skin-to-skin or face-to-face contact with many people may also increase your risk of exposure, especially if people are wearing less clothing.
  • If you or your partners are sick [with Monkey Pox], especially if you or they have a new or unexpected rash or sore, do not have sex or close physical contact. Avoid clubs, parties or gatherings until you have talked to a health care provider.
  • If you choose to have sex while sick [with Monkey Pox], avoid kissing and other face-to-face contact. Also, cover all sores with clothing or sealed bandages. This may help reduce—but not eliminate—the risk of transmission.
  • Wash your hands, sex toys and bedding before and after sex or other intimate activities.

HOW TO PROTECT OTHERS IF YOU HAVE MONKEY POX:

  • Avoid sex or being intimate with anyone until you have been checked by a provider.
  • Stay home and separate from other people in your household.
  • If you cannot fully separate from others in your household, wear a face mask and avoid physical contact. Wear clothing that covers your lesions when in shared spaces.
  • If you must leave home for essential needs or medical care, cover your rash and lesions with clothing and wear a face mask.
  • Do not share or let others touch your clothing, towels, bedding or utensils. Do not share a bed.
  • Do not share dishes, food, drink or utensils. Wash dishes with warm water and soap or in a dishwasher.
  • Wash your hands and clean shared surfaces, such as countertops and doorknobs, often. Household members should also wash their hands often, especially if they touch materials or surfaces that may have come in contact with lesions.

U.S. and state officials are working to make Monkey Pox vaccines available as soon as possible. To get text alerts about vaccination appointments and other monkeypox updates for NYC, text “MONKEYPOX” to 692-692. Currently, to qualify for a vaccine in NYC you must meet all of the following criteria: 1) be gay, bisexual, or other a man who has sex with men, and/or transgender, gender non-conforming, or gender non-binary, 2) have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the last 14 days, and 3) be 18 years of age or older.

NYC DOHMH must be commended for being transparent and sharing up-to-the-minute factual information about Monkey Pox. A natural human response to any infectious disease is the fear of catching it. Panic ensued during the height of AIDS because useful and actionable information about risk and prevention was not available. Unlike AIDS, Monkey Pox is not deadly and stockpiles of vaccines already exist. Especially during this crucial window where the community’s actions can impact the trajectory of the new pandemic, accurate, timely and complete information is vital for individuals and our community to make the most informed decisions.

While it is unfortunate that we have to deal with a new infectious disease after four decades of AIDS and on the heels of COVID, there is much reason for optimism. Science and technology are making breakthrough advances at record speed. Just look at how the world developed and deployed multiple vaccines for coronavirus within a year since the emergence of COVID-19. Similarly, whereas once AIDS was a certain death sentence, a steady trickle of patients have now been cured of AIDS using innovative stem cell therapies. The first patient ever cured of AIDS was reported more than 15 years ago in 2007. Just last month on July 27, 2022, the 4th and 5th patients were reported cured. Whereas today we may be living with infectious disease, including sexually transmitted disease such as HIV/AIDS, herpes, gonorrhea, shypillis and now Monkey Pox and others yet to come, I am certain we are not too far away from a world without any of these. What is needed is a national response that is as swift, vigrous and unabating to research, develop and implement globally accessible treatments and cures.

Rockefeller University alumnus and biotech inventor Kambiz Shekdar, Ph.D., is the president of Research Foundation to Cure AIDS and Science & LGBTQ editor at WestView News. To support RFTCA, go to https://rftca.org/.

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