The U.S. is releasing more doses of the monkeypox vaccine from a national stockpile as health officials try to contain the global outbreak.
At least seven cases are currently under investigation in the U.S. – including one confirmed in Massachusetts – and two presumed in south Florida.
While the exact cause is unknown, experts are warning one group of people to be extra cautious.
Dr. John Brooks, a CDC official, said many of the people affected globally so far are men who identify as gay or bisexual. Though some groups have greater chance of exposure to monkeypox right now, the risk isn’t limited only to the gay and bisexual community, he cautioned.
Health organizations across the world are trying to figure out what led to the spread of monkey pox.
One theory includes the transmission of the disease through gay and bisexual men during two raves in Spain and Belgium.
Which led to the CDC’s warning to the LGBTQ community to be on alert -- even though experts reinforce monkeypox can affect anyone and not just through sex.
“It’s gone to 16 nations it’s not multinational,” Dr. Shalika Katugaha, Baptist Health system medical director of infectious diseases, said. “When we see it happen, it doesn’t typically happen like that. It’s usually in isolated incidents in travelers and this time around -- travelers have not necessarily been to western or central Africa.”
Over the weekend the CDC issued a level 2 alert for travelers which means taking enhanced precautions. But the overall risk to the general public is low.
Dr. Katugaha explains monkeypox does not spread as easily as other viruses like COVID-19, “People develop this rash and you get it from touch.”
According to the World Health Organization the virus can be transmitted by close contact with lesions, body fluids, large respiratory droplets, and contaminated materials such as bedding. Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted virus however, most of the cases in the current outbreak have been in men who have sex with men.
But medical experts emphasize anyone can get the virus. Dr. Katugaha said, ”No this is not affecting just LGBTQ people, it is affecting everyone.”
Still, some LGBTQ organizations are concerned about the CDC’s emphasis on this specific community.
A representative from JASMYN said “JASMYN has worked in disease prevention for over two decades and is concerned about recent messaging related to the current viral outbreak of what is commonly referred to as monkeypox. Media messages that specifically focus on gay and bisexual men and imply that they might be at higher risk for this disease will only serve to further stigmatize those groups and interfere with getting prevention messages out to the broader community. The reality is anyone could contract monkeypox if they are exposed.”
And the CDC says if anyone develops a new or unexplained rash and believe to have been in contact with someone who had monkeypox to see a medical professional right away.
At this point, The CDC says most monkeypox patients in the current outbreak have recovered within a month without any specific treatment and there have been no deaths reported.