Monkeypox outbreak in Los Angeles soars to 22 cases after Pride events as health officials warn disease is spreading among gay community
- Officials said that ‘recent cases involve gay and bisexual men who have attended large events’
- The latest warning comes as Los Angeles begins to wrap up its Pride celebrations that attracted thousands of people to events in the city
- Prior to June, there was just three cases of monkeypox in all of California, there is now 51
- Health officials in Los Angeles said that the city is now offering the vaccine to ‘individuals at a higher risk of monkeypox’
- None of the recent cases in LA are related to persons traveling abroad, as was the case at the beginning of the outbreak
- Sexual activity at two raves in Europe in May are thought to have contributed to new cases worldwide
- This week, the World Health Organization stopped short of declaring monkeypox a global health emergency
‘Anyone can get and spread monkeypox, but some of the recent cases identified have been among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men who attended large events where the exposure to monkeypox may have occurred,’ said Los Angeles Department of Public Health in a statement.
The warning comes after a month of Pride celebrations in the city that included Pride in the Park on June 11, a concert that attracted over 20,000 people and included a performance from Christina Aguilera as well as the city’s parade which occurred on June 12.
As of June 2, there were just three cases of monkeypox in all of California, NBC News said at the time.
There are now 51 reported monkeypox cases in California and 199 cases nationwide, according to the CDC.
LA is now offering the JYNNEOS vaccine to ‘individuals at a higher risk of monkeypox.’
JYNNEOS is a vaccine used to treat smallpox and monkeypox that was first approved for use in the US by the Federal Drug Administration in 2019.
New York City began a rollout of the vaccine in preparation for their Pride celebrations this past Thursday. There are 35 reported cases in New York state.
Most early cases in the US were in people who had just returned from traveling abroad. But the disease has spread quickly, especially among gay men.
Worldwide, health officials have already warned that there is a spike in monkeypox cases in male gay and bisexual communities.
Monkeypox — native to West Africa — has now been detected more than 3,000 times across 40 countries where it is not typically found this year.
The above map shows the spread of monkeypox across the U.S. The virus has now been detected in 24 states. Previously, New York was the epicenter of the outbreak but it has now been surpassed by California
Revelers in Los Angeles enjoying the Pride parade earlier in June 2022. Following the celebration, health officials warned that recent cases in the city ‘identified have been among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men who attended large events’
Similar to New York City, the city of Los Angeles is offering the JYNNEOS vaccine to ‘individuals at a higher risk of monkeypox’
The theme of Los Angeles’ Pride parade this year was ‘Love Your Pride’
The tropical disease is primarily spread through physical contact with infectious rashes, but in rare cases it can also be transmitted through ‘sustained’ face-to-face contact.
Many patients have rashes on their genital area and anus as a first warning sign, before the disease spreads to the rest of the body.
It can take up to four weeks to get better from the disease, with most cases being mild and clearing up on their own.
Someone remains infectious until their rashes have scabbed over and eventually fallen off.
In May 2022, Andy Seale, a strategies adviser with the World Health Organization, was quoted as saying that it’s important for people to celebrate Pride events as normal.
He said: ‘It’s important that people who want to go out and celebrate gay pride, LGBTQ+ pride, to continue to go and plan to so.’
Seale also said: ‘Given that this is not a gay disease, the transmission routes are common to everybody. The advice is pretty much the same for all people.’
Also in May 2022, Dr. David Heymann, who formerly headed WHO’s emergencies department, told The Associated Press that the leading theory to explain the spread of the disease was sexual transmission at raves held in Spain and Belgium.
‘We know monkeypox can spread when there is close contact with the lesions of someone who is infected, and it looks like sexual contact has now amplified that transmission,’ said Heymann.
Monkeypox does not spread easily from person-to-person and requires the exchange of bodily fluids or prolonged exposure to someone who already has the virus
There have been no deaths recorded amid the 2022 outbreak of monkeypox in Europe and the US
Just a few days before Pride events kicked off in New York City, ‘at risk’ gay and bisexual men were offered the vaccine
This week, WHO stopped short of declaring Monkeypox a global health emergency but did say that the situation would be reviewed again next month.
US boosts monkeypox testing in bid to speed diagnoses
The Biden administration has started shipping monkeypox tests to commercial laboratories, in a bid to speed diagnoses for suspected infections.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is sending swabs to labs including Aegis Science, Labcorp, Mayo Clinic Laboratories, Quest Diagnostics and Sonic Healthcare.
It said this would significant expand the nation’s capacity to test for monkeypox.
Previously, testing has largely been confined to public health labs, which combined have a capacity of about 8,000 tests per week.
‘All Americans should be concerned about monkeypox cases’, said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra in a statement.
‘Thankfully we have right now the tools to fight and treat cases in America.
‘By dramatically expanding the number of testing locations throughout the country, we are making it possible for anyone who needs to be tested to do so.’
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was deeply concerned about the outbreak.
‘I am deeply concerned about the monkeypox outbreak, this is clearly an evolving health threat that my colleagues and I in the WHO Secretariat are following extremely closely,’ Tedros said.
The ‘global emergency’ label currently only applies to the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing efforts to eradicate polio, and the U.N. agency has stepped back from applying it to the monkeypox outbreak after advice from a meeting of international experts.
New York City health chiefs were blasted for their ‘last minute’ roll out of monkeypox vaccines just two days before the city’s Pride weekend Friday — as scores of walk-ins were turned away on the second day of inoculations.
Last Thursday, the city became the first in the U.S. to start offering the jab to the most ‘at risk’ gay or bisexual men.
But within three hours of launching the drive it was forced to suspend walk-ins due to ‘high demand’, and all appointments were booked solid until Monday.
At least 100 men queued for the jab last Thursday morning, with many not having bookings arriving up to two hours before the clinic opened. But all walk-ins were turned away and told to check online for new slots.
Chris LeBron, a Democrat candidate for the New York State Assembly, slammed the ‘pop-up’ inoculation and slammed the city’s health commissioner Dr Ashwin Vasan for failing to turn up to monitor the vaccinations.
Men waiting to get inoculated today said it was ‘ridiculous’ that only 1,000 doses were available in a city of eight million. Others slammed health officials for giving ‘contradictory’ information on how to get jabbed.
Many of those who got the vaccine today expressed their relief, saying they would now be able to enjoy the Pride weekend safely — which is expected to draw crowds numbering more than two million. One man even left the clinic telling a friend, ‘we can make out tonight!’
No deaths have been recorded amid the 2022 outbreak, but health officials warn it could spill over into more vulnerable populations if the outbreak is not contained.