Monkeypox (a type of Orthopoxvirus) first appeared in NYC in May, and since then the case number has grown exponentially. Over this past weekend, both New York State and New York City declared subsequent “state of emergencies” for the outbreak, following a similar move by the city of San Francisco, and WHO (the World Health Organization) who declared it a global health emergency on July 23.
Though of course the declarations acknowledge the severity of the disease and public health risk, it also allows health departments to issue “emergency commissioner’s orders” and “amend provisions of the Health Code” to enforce measures that can help prevent further spread of the disease.
Today, we are declaring monkeypox a public health emergency in New York City.
— Mayor Eric Adams (@NYCMayor) July 30, 2022
In the NYC announcement, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan shared:
“New York City is currently the epicenter of the outbreak, and we estimate that approximately 150,000 New Yorkers may currently be at risk for monkeypox exposure. We will continue to work with our federal partners to secure more doses as soon as they become available.
This outbreak must be met with urgency, action, and resources, both nationally and globally, and this declaration of a public health emergency reflects the seriousness of the moment.
Here are some other questions about monkeypox in NYC, answered with info shared on the NYC Gov Health & Hospitals website:
Who can get monkeypox?
Anyone can get or spread monkeypox. Though as of now the virus is mostly spreading in communities of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM), it is important to remember that anyone is susceptible.
How does monkeypox spread?
Monkeypox spreads through close bodily contact with an infected person — from oral, anal and vaginal sex to even hugging and kissing.
Though it can spread from direct contact with the sores or rash of someone who has it or through respiratory droplets from face to face contact, it can also spread through their used items like bedding, clothing, towels, etc.
What should I look out for symptom-wise?
Typical symptoms include a rash or sores that can resemble pimples or blisters. They can occur all over your body, or be concentrated on certain parts like the face, hands or feet. They are very itchy and painful, and can also be accompanied by flu symptoms like sore throat, fever, swollen lymph nodes, headache and tiredness. They normally begin within two weeks of exposure to the virus.
What should I do if I am experiencing symptoms?
If you have symptoms, you should speak with your healthcare provider about getting tested (which involves swabbing the rash/sore). If you need help finding one, you can call 311. While you are awaiting test results, you should self-isolate.
How do I get a vaccine for monkeypox?
Right now, vaccine appointments are full in NYC due to a low supply of doses, but more may open up if there are cancellations. You can sign up at Vax4NYC.nyc.gov.
As of now — though the requirements may change as supplies increase — you must meet all of the following conditions to be vaccinated for monkeypox:
- Gay, bisexual, or other man who has sex with men, and/or transgender, gender non-conforming, or gender non-binary
- Age 18 or older
- Have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the last 14 days
For those who have already received their first vaccination dose, an NYC Health Department clinic will be contacting you about scheduling a second dose appointment soon.
If you already have monkeypox, you are ineligible for the vaccine at the time since you likely have some degree of protection now.
Can I do anything to help prevent getting it?
According to the CDC, here are some monkeypox prevention measure you can take:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face and after you use the bathroom
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox
- Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used (sharing eating utensils or cups, handling bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox)
- Practice safe sex (see the full list of ways to do so here), and avoid having sex if you or your partner has a new unexplained rash or has been feeling sick.
- Limiting your number of sex partners may reduce the possibility of exposure. (Having multiple or anonymous sex partners may increase your chances of exposure to monkeypox.)
- To lower your chances of getting monkeypox, consider how much skin-to-skin contact will occur at the event you plan to attend. Lower risk activities include festivals, events & concerts where attendees are fully clothed and unlikely to share skin-to-skin contact (from NYC Health Dept.)
How many cases are in NYC?
As of today, August 1, there are 1,472 monkeypox cases in NYC. You can check new updated numbers daily on the NYC Gov. website here.