NYC Monkeypox Cases Balloon as Manhattan Clinic Offering Vaccine Stays Empty

New York City started offering the monkeypox vaccine last week, as the city accounts for more than 20% of the total cases nationwide

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The number of suspected monkeypox cases in New York City ballooned again Monday to 48, a 60% increase in just four days as health officials scramble to shore up a vaccine that appears woefully equipped at this point to accommodate demand.

The health department announced the latest case count in a Monday tweet that was notably bereft of reference to new appointments opening up at the lone Manhattan clinic the city has prepared to offer the monkeypox vaccine.

New York City began offering vaccination against monkeypox Thursday to at-risk groups, with the outbreak primarily linked at this point to men having sex with men, according to officials, but demand was so high walk-ins were closed within hours.

After once again running out of vaccines over the weekend, the city's health department said it was in continued talks with the Centers for Disease Control to get more inoculations. The amount and timeline were not clear, however.

"This is yet another example of a public health failure. And consider what we just went through with COVID-19, we should be much more preapred," said NYC Council Member Erik Bottcher, one of the local leaders who say that the CDC is failing the city and its comparatively larger LGTBQ population.

The state said it is the city's job to order and distribute vaccines from the federal government, but lawmakers still wrote a letter to the governor demanding more action from Albany.

"A thousand doses for a population of over 700,000 is an outrage. And I don't know that we've learned our lesson. We have a population that wants the vaccine, that should be a good thing," said State Senator Brad Hoylman. "I'm concerned because this outbreak has affected a subset of the population, the federal government isn't taking this seriously. And we've seen that movie before."

In total, New York City represents more than 20% of all cases diagnosed nationwide. There has been one case confirmed in New Jersey, while Connecticut has not seen any.

While monkeypox is contagious and rare in the United States, health officials say the risk to the general public is quite low. And this isn't COVID all over again.

As opposed to the early days of the COVID pandemic, when there was no effective treatment, there are already multiple vaccines that work against the orthopoxvirus that causes monkeypox. It's just a matter, again, of ensuring sufficient supply.

For now, the lone NYC clinic offering monkeypox vaccines as available is the Chelsea Sexual Health Clinic (303 Ninth Avenue in Manhattan). The clinic is open on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The clinic had to turn people away on Monday after running out of the vaccine.

How Do You Catch Monkeypox?

The CDC issued new monkeypox guidance last week as the number of suspected cases nationwide boomed, marking America's largest-ever outbreak of monkeypox, which typically has been confined to other continents.

While the CDC says the risk to the general public remains low, people are urged to avoid close contact with those who are sick, including those with skin or genital lesions, as well as sick or dead animals. Anyone displaying symptoms, like unexplained skin rash or lesions, should reach out to their healthcare providers for guidance.

It is also advised to avoid eating meat that comes from wild game or using products (such as creams, powders or lotions) that come from wild animals from Africa.

What Is Monkeypox?

Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958, when outbreaks occurred in colonies of monkeys kept for research -- resulting in its name. (What you need to know about monkeypox.)

The first case in a human was reported in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which still has the majority of infections. Other African countries where it has been found: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Liberia, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone.

Human symptoms of monkeypox are similar to but milder than the symptoms of smallpox, the CDC says. It presents itself as a flu-like illness accompanied by lymph-node swelling and rash on the face and body.

Monkeypox starts off with fever, headache, muscle aches, and exhaustion. Monkeypox also causes lymph nodes to swell, something that smallpox does not. The incubation period is usually 7−14 days but can range from 5−21 days.

The CDC is urging healthcare providers in the U.S. to be alert for patients who have rashes consistent with monkeypox, regardless of whether they have traveled or have specific risks for monkeypox. See more information from the travel notice here.

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