NEW YORK (PIX11) — Monkeypox has been declared a public health emergency in New York City.
The move came right after the governor declared a disaster emergency for the state. New data from the city’s Health Department shows monkeypox is rampant in Manhattan.
As of July 28, mostly men in the LGBTQ+ community as well as men who have sex with men have been infected with most of the cases occurring in people between the ages of 30 and 39.
“It’s concentrated in Manhattan. Manhattan is really the epicenter of New York City and NYC is the epicenter of the country,” says Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine.
He said the racial and ethnic breakdown of the case counts if a “reflection” of New York City.
“No community is immune,” Levine said.
The data also highlights the ethnicities and races the virus is impacting most: 20% of those who have been infected are Black, 24% are Hispanic or Latino and 28.5% are white.
Levine said he’s concerned there may be inequality when it comes to who has been able to access the coveted and hard-to-come-by vaccine appointments.
“We haven’t got data on who is getting vaccinated so we don’t know for sure, but we really need to do more as a city to get vaccines out to neighborhoods and communities which are being underrepresented,” he said.
Levine has heard anecdotal evidence indicating that Black and Latino gay men are underrepresented in who is getting vaccinated. The Health Department said it has set aside vaccines for community-based organizations to ensure equitable distribution.
So far, the city has received around 41,000 vaccine doses. Another 80,000 or so are on the way, though it could be weeks before they arrive. That’s why Levine said testing and awareness are the keys to containing the outbreak in the interim.
Dr. Stephanie Silvera agrees. She’s an epidemiologist and a professor of public health at Montclair State University. Dr. Silvera said it’s only a matter of time before the virus spreads to other groups.
“It is not particular to gay men or the behavior of men having sex with men. So once it starts to spread outside that community, we can see this spreading into what we consider the more high-risk populations, which includes young children and pregnant women,” Silvera said.
Right now, the best thing anyone can do if they think they have been exposed or have symptoms is to call their doctor and isolate themselves immediately, according to Silvera.
“The symptoms can include things like fatigue, muscle ache, fever,” she said. “You can also have some of the symptoms for up to two to three weeks before you get the tell-tale rash, so we have to really be mindful of if you are not feeling well, stay at home,” she said.
Silvera added the virus spreads through skin-to-skin contact, respiratory droplets and sharing bedding, towels and utensils. To slow down the spread, she recommended people be honest with their sexual partners and keep their distance where possible.
“If you are at a concert and you’re wearing a tank top and shorts and you’re bumping up against other individuals and you are in their physical space, you can be at risk of contracting the virus,” she said. “So this is a situation of being very mindful of your behaviors and how close you are to other people will be really important.”
Dr. Silvera also recommended keeping windows open while indoors with others to help with ventilation.
The City’s Health Department said it is working to educate health providers on what to look for when it comes to monkeypox. It’s also working with private labs to increase testing capacity.