Health experts answer questions about monkeypox in Md.

Lots of people have questions about monkeypox, its spread locally and the vaccines that fight it.

Maryland health experts took those questions Wednesday night at a virtual townhall hosted by Prince George’s County.

“Events like this are critical to our outbreak response in Maryland,” said Peter DeMartino, the director of Infectious Disease Prevention and Health Services at the Maryland Department of Health.

He and others stressed that the disease is commonly spread by prolonged skin-to-skin contact, and in general most Marylanders are at very low risk of acquiring it.

When it comes to monkeypox testing in Prince George’s County, “We don’t have the resources, capacity or space to test people on a large-scale basis,” said outgoing county health officer Dr. Ernest Carter. “However, we are working with the state to possibly develop a larger testing operation.”

DeMartino said that currently vaccines are prioritized for those who have may have been recently exposed.

“We are focused on those people who have already experienced risk, and so that’s where we want to break the transmission that’s already potentially happened,” DeMartino said.

“We are not at a place in Maryland where there’s enough vaccine to give people pre-exposure vaccination,” he said.

“Right now, the county health department has a very limited supply, and therefore we have limited availability for appointments,” said Carter.

DeMartino also addressed questions about why the virus has been more prevalent among men in the gay and bisexual community.

“I think it has to do with our sexual and social networks. They’re smaller, they’re closer,” he said. “I know, as an identifying gay man, monkeypox is not keeping me off the dance floor, but it is making me rethink some of my outfits, because I do want to avoid that prolonged skin-to-skin contact.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Monkeypox is not considered a sexually transmitted disease, but it is often transmitted through close, sustained physical contact, which can include sexual contact.”

John Aaron

John Aaron is a news anchor and reporter for WTOP. After starting his professional broadcast career as an anchor and reporter for WGET and WGTY in Gettysburg, PA, he went on to spend several years in the world of sports media, working for Comcast SportsNet, MLB Network Radio, and WTOP sports.

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