An outbreak of monkeypox in D.C. has the health department contact tracing to help control the number of people who are exposed.
According to Patrick Ashley, Senior Deputy Director at DC Health’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Administration, there have been 105 confirmed cases of the disease in the District as of Thursday, July 14.
Through contract tracing, DC Health was able to identify 535 people who were close contacts to people who tested positive.
Ashley said that the majority of positive cases were among white, gay men ages 25 to 39.
“We do believe that there’s likely more monkeypox in the community than we have previously detected to date, primarily because of under testing,” said Ashley.
The initial symptoms of monkeypox often include flulike symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes, followed by a rash and skin lesions.
“If individuals are seeing unexplained rashes, unexplained lesions … talk to your doctor and consult with them to understand if you might be at risk of monkeypox and to get tested,” Ashley said.
The virus is believed to be spread through close, skin-to-skin contact, and through bodily fluids.
Though rarely deadly, it can be painful and the illness typically lasts from two to four weeks.
The JYNNEOS two-dose vaccine has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to prevent the disease, but supplies in the U.S. are limited and only allocated through the federal government.
The city received 1,200 first doses in June and has since received an additional 7,100 doses. Ashley said they expect to get more vaccines in the coming weeks and months.
“We don’t believe that any of this will provide us as much vaccines or unlimited amounts of vaccines … but we are optimistic we’ll continue to receive vaccines from the CDC to be able to continue to put shots in arms.”
This week, DC Health launched its online preregistration system. 3,000 appointment invitations have since been sent out.
According to the website, you are eligible if you are a D.C. resident 18 years of age or older, and:
- Gay, bisexual, and other men 18 and older who have sex with men and have had multiple or anonymous sexual partners in the last 14 days); OR
- Transgender women and nonbinary persons assigned male at birth who have sex with men; OR
- Sex workers (of any sex); OR
- Staff (of any sex) at establishments where sexual activity occurs (e.g., bathhouses, saunas, sex clubs).
Health officials are urging people who think they may need the vaccine and are not eligible to register anyway, so they can get a better sense of demand in the District.
Ashley also said that DC Health is reaching out to the LGBTQ+ community and working with community based organizations and to better educate community members about the virus and prevention.
According to the CDC’s latest count, there are 1,470 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the U.S. and 11,689 cases globally.