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San Diego County health officials urge vaccinations for monkeypox

County working with LGBTQ+ community on planning of clinics
Posted at 5:23 AM, Jul 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-14 08:23:41-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - The monkeypox virus made its way to the U.S. in mid-May, and according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 1,053 people have been infected in the country so far.

In San Diego, six cases have been reported, but it's enough to get the attention of health experts.

"This has basically just been an epidemiological accident. So, the virus jumped across to someone,” said Dr. Davey Smith, the Chief of Infectious Diseases & Global Public Health at UC San Diego. "This allowed the transmission to occur amongst a close-knit group of gay men. And now that's what's going on."

That's prompted San Diego County to get people vaccinated ahead of major upcoming events around the county, including San Diego Pride.

"Viruses don't have a sexual orientation,” Smith said.

The county said while it's not inherently a sexually transmitted disease, close or body contact with somebody with monkeypox can pass the virus on to you.

County officials also said in a news release on Tuesday, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that it’s not clear how the people were exposed to monkeypox, but early data suggest that gay, bisexual men and other men who have sex with men make up a high number of cases.”

It also added that the county is working with members of the LGBTQ+ community on getting the word out on the two by-appointment-only vaccination clinics for county residents who are at high-risk of the virus.

"One of the great things about the LGBT community is we really care about one another and we're very interconnected,” said Fernando Lopez, Executive Director of San Diego Pride.

Lopez said that their community has been working on letting people know about what information is out there relating to monkeypox.

"There's a wealth of educational information that's been produced by the county and public health. And so, it seems right now like that everyone in our community is really doing their best to educate themselves, educate each other on what precautions make sense for them,” Lopez said.

There is an underlying worry with the reports of who virus is infecting.

"I think my biggest concern is the media stigmatizing the LGBT community and further causing harm,” Lopez said.

Lopez's hope is that people treat this infectious disease like any other.

"Whether it's COVID, or the flu or monkeypox, these diseases do not discriminate against anyone. And so, these are really public health issues that can impact any and every community,” Lopez said.

It’s a sentiment echoed by health officials.

"It'll probably also jump over to other groups where we'll also have to see it.”