A new analysis by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is offering new insight into the monkeypox outbreak, which shows it disproportionately affecting men who have sex with men – especially those who are Black and Hispanic.
By July 22, there were 2,891 cases of monkeypox reported in the U.S., around two months after the country’s first case was reported. Among the cases with available data, 94 percent were men who reported recent sexual or close intimate contact with another man. 54 percent of cases were among Black and Hispanic people, despite them combining for only about 34 percent of the general U.S. population.
Additionally, the CDC analysis reveals that the share of cases among Black people has grown in recent weeks.
"Public health efforts should prioritize gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, who are currently disproportionately affected, for prevention and testing, while addressing equity, minimizing stigma, and maintaining vigilance for transmission in other populations," the report’s authors say.
However, in a conversation with NPR, Gregg Gonsalves, epidemiologist and associate professor at the Yale School of Public Health warns about stigmatization of monkeypox as associated with gay men.
“We have to figure out how to hold two thoughts in our head at once,” said Gonsalves. “One is it's not a gay disease, but it's happening among men who have sex with men. And what the federal government has actually been pretty good at is that they've been very, very vocal about the need not to stigmatize LGBT communities, gay men - not to discriminate against them.
“That being said, you know, we've already heard from certain politicians - particularly in the other party - that have tried to make this a way to scapegoat people in a moment of crisis,” he explained.
When it comes to monkeypox’s current outbreak, early warning signs of illness are less common compared with “typical” monkeypox. In about two in five cases, the illness started with the rash, but no reported prodromal symptoms such as chills, headache or malaise. 40 percent also did not report fever.
The authors of the new report stress that it’s important that anyone with a rash consistent with monkeypox symptoms be tested for the virus, regardless of sexual or gender identity.