As monkeypox cases rise in LA, the county has so far received more than 7,000 vaccine doses from the federal government, and expects to get more in the coming weeks. But right now, the county is making vaccines available by “invitation only,” mainly to those who’ve been exposed to a case already verified by the Public Health Department.
Monkeypox is highly treatable and far less transmissible than COVID-19.
“We believe at this point that it spreads through close contact, skin-to-skin sexual contact, and secretions like saliva and kissing. … We're still learning a lot about this virus, but it does appear to spread more readily through skin lesions,” says Dr. Saahir Khan, infectious disease specialist with Keck
Medicine of USC.
Right now, the virus is primarily spreading within the LGBTQ community. Khan says he compares this to the early stages of the AIDS epidemic, but it’s not restricted to one community.
“We still see most of the cases, I think, in the LGBTQ community, but certainly we've seen cases outside of that. And certainly, anyone can get this virus. The virus itself doesn't discriminate.”
He expects monkeypox to stay in the human population for a while, but it likely won’t be as pervasive as HIV, herpes, and syphilis.
However, with the BA.5 Omicron subvariant spreading, is the public health system ready to fight another virus alongside COVID?
“In general, it's difficult to keep up with a new virus and ramp up distribution and production rapidly. I think, actually, we're in a better place now than we were at the beginning of COVID — because of learning from our experience with COVID,” Khan says.
He continues, “But I do think there is some level in the population of just fatigue, where people understandably are tired of hearing about all the risks to their health, and it creates anxiety. But unfortunately, with the movement of people … these viruses are going to just become more and more common, and so public health issues like this are never going away.”