By B.L. Wilson
Amid growing concern in the United States and around the world about monkeypox (MPX), George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health and the D.C. Center for AIDS Research (DC CFAR) cosponsored a citywide virtual seminar recently to share information about MPX with the GW and D.C. communities.
MPX is a viral infection transmitted primarily through direct contact with the skin lesions caused by the virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 3,800 cases have been reported in the United States since the first case was identified in May, with about 140 reported in D.C.
The speakers included DC CFAR Director Alan Greenberg, who introduced the session, Milken Institute School of Public Health Dean Lynn Goldman, who also served as the moderator, Anil Mangla, the state epidemiologist for the District of Columbia, Tara Palmore, a professor of medicine at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences as well as director of the travelers’ clinic at the GW Medical Faculty Associates, and Kenya Hutton, a community representative and advocate.
Goldman provided opening remarks, noting that MPX was discovered in 1958, is endemic in West and Central Africa, and until recently was primarily transmitted from animals to humans. MPX had rarely occurred in the United States in the past, she said, adding that this is the first outbreak in the United States involving person-to-person spread. Goldman said that the university is concerned about the well-being of the GW and local communities and expressed concern about stigma and discrimination toward people and communities impacted by MPX.
Mangla explained that this outbreak started in Europe and has now spread to more than 63 countries. In the District of Columbia, 82% of MPX cases involve individuals who identify as gay. While the majority of the cases during this outbreak are occurring in individuals who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community, this is not a disease that is confined to the LGBTQ+ community. Fortunately, he said, there is a vaccine that is 85% effective against MPX, which the D.C. Health Department is now distributing to people at high risk of infection. More than 1,146 people have already been vaccinated in the city, and the health department will soon have more than 7,100 additional doses of the vaccine for distribution, he added.
Palmore described the clinical presentation and treatment of patients who have received care for MPX. Although the disease is typically mild and rarely fatal, some patients have been treated with an antiviral medicine called tecovirimat or TPOXX, and some patients have needed to be hospitalized for pain management, she noted.
Hutton followed these presentations with questions that he had elicited from the community who are concerned about stigma, the availability of testing and the vaccine. The session concluded with the invited speakers answering questions from the seminar participants about MPX.
For further information about the clinical presentation of MPX, what to do if you think you have been exposed or infected, how to prevent MPX including eligibility criteria for vaccines and how to access them, please visit the DC Health website.