Grindr, the social networking app, sent a pop-up message about the risk of monkeypox to millions of users in Europe and America. A sex party organizer in New York asked guests to check themselves for injuries before showing up. And organizers of the city’s major Pride celebrations put up a monkeypox announcement on Sunday in their instagram account.
As millions upon thousands of people gather in New York City and elsewhere to celebrate Pride this month, town and federal officials, health advocates and party organizers are rushing to spread more urgent health warning about the danger of monkey bones.
“Be careful, but don’t panic,” said Jason Cianciotto, vice president of communications and policy at Gay Men’s Health Crisis, summarizing the message the group is trying to convey.
The virus, long endemic to parts of Africa, is now spreading around the world, and, although it can affect anyone, now that it has spread mainly through networks of men who have sex with men, it is said to officers.
Since May 13, when the first case of the epidemic was reported in Europe, more than 2,000 people in 35 countries outside Africa have been diagnosed with the virus. Since Wednesday, there has been 16 cases identified in New York Citybetween 84 nationwide. The most recent New York cases did not involve travel, suggesting that human-to-human transmission occurred in New York City, the said the city health department.
While the raw numbers are still low, epidemiologists are concerned about the level of global transmission and because cases are progressing with no clear links to each other, suggesting a wider spread. The World Health Organization have a meeting next week to determine if monkeypox already qualifies as a global health emergency.
Monkeypox, so named because it was first discovered by European researchers in captive monkeys in 1958, can infect anyone, regardless of sex, age or sexual orientation. While it is usually spread through direct contact with wounds, it can also be spread through shared objects such as towels, as well as through droplets released when speaking, coughing or sneezing.
Scientists believe it could also be passed on by small aerosol particles, although it may require a long period of close contact. The virus is generally less contagious than Covid-19.
Monkeypox has caused at least 72 deaths this year within African countries where the virus endemicthe director general of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said Tuesdaybut there have been no other deaths associated with the global outbreak outside of Africa.
The first 10 boxes of New York All were found to be men between the ages of 27 and 50, and most were identified as men who had sex with men, following the global standard, according to the town’s health department. Most New York cases result in mild symptoms, officials say, but even mild cases can include an itchy and painful rash, which lasts two to four weeks.
Public awareness of the epidemic, which will lead to an increased need for tests, is still at an early stage, and the virus sometimes causes only certain lesions in the genital area, making it difficult to differentiate from other diseases. transmitted by fornication. Two vaccines, including antivirals, are available, even for now vaccines are mainly offered in America it is close contact in identified or suspected cases.
Pride celebrations are the perfect time to raise awareness among people in the LGBTQ community who are most at risk, health officials said in interviews, but also create a challenge for those looking to get a message across. about protecting the community without creating alarm or stigma. More broadly, organizers and health officials don’t want to put a damper on Pride celebrations and their positive messages about sexual identity.
Working with promoters and colleagues in the LGBTQ community, federal and local health officials in recent weeks have begun creating social media posts, writing fact sheets and posting in images of what pox looks like to help people figure out what to look for.
Pride gatherings also come at an important time, when there is a chance that aggressive public health actions can prevent monkeypox from being prevented, but increased contact during celebrations can create further spread. of the disease, especially if people are not educated about the virus.
“We all need to improve their game, because if we can stop it, we need a real boost in efforts across the board.,”Said Gregg Gonsalves, a longtime AIDS activist and epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health, in an interview. “We’re walking the line between prevention and continued spread, and prevention is better.”
The focus of health officials today is to provide information on how the disease is transmitted-especially through skin-to-skin contact-and to encourage people to seek care whether they have a rash or not. felt good. While the messages were aimed primarily at the gay and bisexual community, public health officials also emphasized that anyone could be infected.
Even if the current risk for the general public remains low, it could rise if the virus establishes itself in the United States and other countries outside of Africa, affecting a much larger population. man, the WHO warns a recent update. The organization is also working on changing the name of the virus, which they recognize could increase the stigma surrounding it.
However, many health experts warn that the message of public health, which is currently largely online, needs to act faster, and that education alone is not enough to stop the rash.
All aspects of the monkeypox response — from education to identifying cases to isolating those infected — need to be improved, as Carlos Del Rio and Drchair of the Department of Global Health at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health and future president of Infectious Diseases Society of America.
“To prevent this, we need to act immediately,” he said. “I wish we had done a lot more.”
Testing for the virus remains rare in the United States. As of June 7, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted 297 tests for orthopoxvirus, the family of viruses to which monkeypox belongs.
Public health experts have warned that the CDC’s centralized approach could discourage more widespread testing, creating rumors of a testing debacle that slowed the nation’s response to Covid-19 in February 2020.
The trial will now take place in two phases: About 70 public health labs nationwide are allowed to run an initial orthopoxvirus PCR test, but the final diagnosis of monkeypox is made only at the CDC lab in Atlanta. Commercial laboratories still cannot test for the virus. There is also no rapid, or antigen testing, for monkeypox, even if one can develop, as for Covid, according to Drs. Jay Varma, the director of the Cornell Center for Pandemic Prevention and Response.
“If there is no intention to give it a little, we are once again caught in our pants by a global pandemic that we are not prepared for,” he said. mark harringtonthe executive director of the Treatment Action Group and longtime AIDS activist, who is urging developments in testing a webinar on monkeypox hosted Monday by the president of the borough of Manhattan.
Some aspects of the federal response have been praised by the LGBTQ community. The CDC, for example, recently released a sex positive fact sheet at social gatherings and safer sex, which, instead of telling everyone to stay home, has specific tips on avoiding monkeypox such as wearing clothes during sex and not kissing.
“Some people are worried that this will happen during the Pride,” Drs. Demetre Daskalakis, director of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the CDC and a leader of the agency’s monkeypox response. “I don’t Think of a better time to get messages about something like this. ”
Parades and open-air activities this month are “not where the virus will spread,” said Mr. Cianciotto of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, so people shouldn’t be afraid to participate in it. “And for clubs that have parties that have closer physical contact, or for people who enjoy interacting with others in an intimate way, they need to get information about what the watch and how to get help. “
However, as there is a growing urgency about education, there is little scaling of other aspects of the response, such as increased access to testing and vaccinations for those who consider themselves at high risk. , say. Joseph Osmundsona microbiologist at New York University who is one of a group of gay and queer activists who regularly talk to decision makers about the answer.
He and other activists are also working through their own channels to educate the LGBTQ community about the virus – for example, through create messages that sex party promoters could distribute to attendees that included photographs of monkeypox wounds.
“When I talk to my friends in the queer community, we want intervention,” Drs. Osmundson. “We don’t want monkeypox. The spaces where we meet for fun and fellowship, we don’t want them to break, number one. And we like to go into spaces with as little anxiety, and as little risk, as possible.