What rising monkeypox cases mean for DC, Maryland and Virginia

On top of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, residents in the District, Virginia, and Maryland continue to worry about an increase of Monkeypox infection cases and a lack of available vaccinations to prevent developing symptoms of the virus.

In an interview on Good Day DC, Holly Morris talked to Dr. Amesh Adalja, an Infectious Disease Expert about COVID-19 and Monkeypox cases on the rise. A New York Times article notes that many scientists believe the U.S. is losing the fight against the virus and Dr. Adalja noted that due to the missteps the country is "playing catch-up" in regards to prevention and vaccines, but also that it doesn't present a pandemic threat to the general public. He also remarked that we need to get vaccines into people, testing stood-up in places where people need to be tested because of exposures, and that due to its spreading in a social sexual network, "we have to use the tools that we know to put an end to it."

How is monkeypox spread and how many cases are there? 

Monkeypox is transmitted primarily through skin-to-skin contact, especially if there is an active lesion. Dr. Adalja noted that it is not something you get by casually walking by someone, and is not contagious during its incubation period, and unlike a respiratory virus is limited in its ability to spread. 

As of 7/8 at 2pm EDT, there are 767 cases nationwide according to a Centers for Disease Control website which also shows that 15 cases exist in Maryland, 18 in Virginia and 64 in the District. The first reported case of Monkeypox in DC was confirmed on June 4th, in a resident who had recently traveled from Europe. 

What are the symptoms of monkeypox?

Monkeypox can spread during intimate contact between people, including respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact, during intimate physical contact like sex, kissing or hugging, as well as touching fabrics and objects during sex that were used by a person with monkeypox, such as bedding and towels.

Where are vaccines available for Monkeypox in the DMV? 

Vaccinations for the virus exist but are very limited by the federal government and being prioritized to the areas with the largest number of cases. Cases include a known contact who has been identified by a public health agency in contact tracing, or a presumed contact who has had a sexual partner in the past 14 days that was diagnosed with monkeypox or one who had multiple sexual partners in the past 14 days in a jurisdiction with known monkeypox

The District is working to make more vaccines available to DC residents but are very limited. Within minutes of opening up appointments on its website on June 27th, all 480 appointments were booked. DC Health is encouraging residents to sign up for vaccine updates and follow them on social media to be advised on future appointments. 

In Maryland and Virginia, vaccines are not available to the general public unless there is a reported exposure to a probable or confirmed case through the states' health departments.

Virginia Dept. of Health notes that it is working to expand vaccine access to Virginians at a higher risk of being exposed and information will come when available on their website. Vaccines are not currently available to the general public there as well as in Maryland, where the state's department of health had reported its first monkeypox case on June 16th. At the time. MDH Deputy Secretary for Public Health Dr. Jinlene Chan. said that the department "…will continue to work with local and federal public health authorities and communicate responsibly with Maryland residents as we learn more."