Georgia has the third highest rate of monkeypox cases per 100,000 people in the nation. That beats the District of Columbia and New York.
The city of Atlanta is home to more than 60% of Georgia’s confirmed cases.
While 4,200 people received their first of two doses of monkeypox vaccine during Black Gay Pride events, Keisha Lance Bottoms, former Atlanta mayor and current White House director of public engagement, said people are returning to their providers for that second dose should.
“This is very important,” Bottoms said. “Some people are a little hesitant because they’re afraid there might be a marker to show they’ve been vaccinated and for whatever reason they don’t want people to know that. But you can get the vaccine in your back.”
Intradermal vaccination patients are more likely to experience redness and swelling at the injection site; Permanent permanent discoloration or scarring may also occur at the injection site, particularly in people with darker skin.
Full immunization is not achieved until about six weeks after taking the first dose.
What is monkeypox?
Monkeypox was first discovered in 1958 when two outbreaks of a smallpox-like disease occurred in research monkey colonies, leading to the naming of the disease.
It originates from various wild animals, not just monkeys, and can be transmitted when a person comes into contact with the virus from an animal, human, or contaminated materials.
The virus enters the body through broken skin, the respiratory tract, or the mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, or mouth.
Human-to-human transmission is thought to occur primarily through large respiratory droplets. Respiratory droplets generally cannot travel more than a few meters, so prolonged face-to-face contact is required.
How is monkeypox confirmed?
The monkeypox virus can only be confirmed by lab testing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after a state health department had reasonable suspicions, Dr. Christina Woevoda.
Wojewoda is Director of Clinical Microbiology at the University of Vermont Medical Center and Chair of the Committee on Microbiology of the College of American Pathologists.
“We don’t want people to swab every little rash that’s out there and overwhelm the public health labs by testing for things that don’t make any sense at all,” she said.
Officials must ensure that the signs, symptoms, and appearance are consistent before the tests are sent from the state laboratory to the CDC.
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In Georgia, most cases of monkeypox affect black men who have sex with men. Of those, about two-thirds are also infected with HIV, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.
Atlanta-based HIV researcher Dr. Melanie Thompson said in August she wasn’t surprised at the differences.
“I wish I could say I was shocked by that; I’m very concerned about that,” Thompson said. “But the most cynical part of me says it’s just another day in Georgia.”
She explained that of the demographic of people living with HIV who present with new HIV diagnoses, 73% are Black and only about 13% are White.
“The disproportionate impact on this community is not a surprise, and has been for decades,” Thompson said. “But it’s not really getting any better. And monkeypox is once again lifting the veil over the disparities occurring in our healthcare system.”
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The stigma of black and HIV vulnerable or HIV positive communities can extend to the providers themselves.
Thompson also said that she believes HIV caregivers are characterized by their willingness to offer monkeypox testing to the community of men who have sex with men.
“I know I’ve had multiple emails and text messages etc. from people who have been turned away by their GPs who won’t test them for monkeypox,” Thompson said. “But we also have emergency rooms in the city of Atlanta that refuse to test people for monkeypox.”
There are so many things in our healthcare system that we know have a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable people in our communities, Bottoms said, adding that the most vulnerable people are often people of color or people from marginalized communities.
And when that happens, she said, it’s extremely disappointing to hear.
“We just want to remind people that since there may not be as many mass events like Black Gay Pride to provide vaccines locally, you may need to be proactive in finding a vaccine,” Bottoms said.
This story comes to Reporter Newspapers / Atlanta Intown through a reporting partnership with GPB News, a non-profit Georgia newsroom.