The Monkeypox outbreak in the United States has caused growing concern as the White House recently declared a public health emergency over the recent outbreak. Locally, Kansas City health officials are prepared if an outbreak were to occur.
According to the Kansas City Health Department, as of last week there have been six reported cases in Missouri and one reported case in Kansas. While those numbers remain low, the Kansas City Health Department has 900 doses of the Monkeypox vaccine that can be used to treat 450 people. So far, there have only been three doses administered by the KCMO health department.
The virus spreads through close physical contact with an infected person such as contact with a rash or lesion of someone with the disease, intimate physical touch, or bodily fluids of a person with monkeypox. The virus can be transmitted through sex but it is not a sexually transmitted disease.
98% of Monkeypox cases are among men who have sex with other men, according to the World Health Organization, but again, it is not a sexually transmitted disease so anyone can be at risk of contracting it.
Concerns among the Kansas City’s LGBTQ+ community:
According to Ryan Cox, a clinical psychologist and the program manager for the LGBTQ Specialty Clinic at University Health, the stigma around the disease has caused people to assume it is only affecting the gay community.
“One of the first things to keep in mind about Monkeypox is it’s not a (quote) gay disease, there’s no such thing as a gay disease,” Cox said. “It is not a sexually transmitted disease, it spreads through close physical contact.”
Cox said as the profile of the virus has grown, he has seen a rise in concerned members of LGBTQ community in Kansas City.
“There’s a lot of anxiety.” Cox said. “We have a lot of folks coming in asking about it, asking how to protect themselves, interested in vaccines, and how to potentially get those (vaccines).”
There are currently two preventative vaccines available that can be taken to inhibit a Monkeypox infection but in Kansas City, both vaccines are not currently available for the general public.However, the health department does have vaccines available for anyone who has been exposed to the virus or believes they have contracted the virus itself.
The KCMO health department also has contract tracing in place and a department disease investigator will reach out to anyone who might have been exposed to have them come in to be tested.
The disease is not fatal according to doctors and it is less contagious than COVID-19 but it can further complicate the health of individuals who might already have underlying conditions.
“Monkeypox is by all accounts a very unpleasant disease to have, but it’s not fatal,” Cox said. “I think continuing to be aware of your health status and the health status of the people you interact with at any kind of intimate level is wise.”
University Health maintains a designated LQBTQ clinic for the needs of anyone in the community with resources available to anyone in the LGBTQ community regardless if it is an issue related to Monkeypox or not