Black Doctors Should Be Aware of Mpox Virus Infections

Black Doctors Should Be Aware of Mpox Virus Infections

(HealthDay News) — Among emergency department patients evaluated for an mpox-compatible rash, the prevalence of mpox is 1.5 percent, according to research published in the June 6 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Carl T. Berdahl, M.D., from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and colleagues screened for mpox reemergence and examined potentially unsuspected cases among non-gay and bisexual men who have sex with men (GBMSM) by conducting surveillance of patients aged 3 months and older with an mpox-compatible rash at 13 U.S. emergency departments during June to December 2023. Using polymerase chain reaction, lesions were tested for mpox virus. A total of 196 persons were enrolled; 55.1 percent were males and 6.6 percent were GBMSM.

The researchers found that 46.4 and 23.5 percent of enrolled persons were non-Hispanic White and non-Hispanic Black or African American, respectively; 38.8 percent reported Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. Overall, 10.7 percent of enrollees reported unstable housing, while 12.2 percent lacked health insurance. Among emergency department patients evaluated for an mpox-compatible rash, the prevalence of mpox was 1.5 percent; all those with a confirmed mpox diagnosis identified as GBMSM, reported being HIV-negative, not being vaccinated against mpox, and having engaged in sex with at least one partner met through smartphone dating applications. There were no cases seen among women, children, or unhoused persons.

Abstract/Full Text

What is Mpox?

Mpox is a viral infection caused by the monkeypox virus, a member of the smallpox virus family. While less severe than smallpox, mpox can cause a painful rash, flu-like symptoms, and can be serious for some individuals.

Mpox primarily spreads through close contact with an infected person. This can include:

  • Direct contact with lesions on the skin or bodily fluids
  • Respiratory droplets from prolonged face-to-face contact
  • Contact with contaminated objects such as clothing, bedding, or medical equipment

It’s important to note that mpox is not spread through casual contact, such as walking past someone in public.

Who is at risk for Mpox?

While mpox can affect anyone, certain communities may face a higher risk of exposure or complications. The Black community in the United States has historically faced health disparities due to social determinants of health like access to healthcare and quality housing. These factors can also influence the impact of mpox.

Here’s how these factors might influence mpox in the Black community:

  • Limited Healthcare Access: Limited access to healthcare can make it harder for individuals to get tested and receive timely treatment for mpox.
  • Medical Mistrust: Historical mistreatment by the medical system can lead to mistrust among some Black people, potentially delaying seeking care for mpox symptoms.
  • Social Determinants of Health: Crowded housing conditions or jobs requiring close contact with others could increase the risk of exposure for some Black individuals.

How can you prevent Mpox?

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from mpox:

  • Vaccination: Getting vaccinated is the most effective way to prevent mpox. Two doses of the Jynneos vaccine are recommended for optimal protection.
  • Reduce Close Contact: Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have mpox symptoms. This includes avoiding sexual contact with someone who has mpox or recent exposure.
  • Practice Safe Sex: Mpox can be spread through sexual contact. Using condoms and practicing other safer sex strategies can help reduce risk.
  • Personal Hygiene: Frequent handwashing with soap and water is essential, especially after contact with a sick person or contaminated objects.
  • Isolating When Sick: If you develop symptoms of mpox, isolate yourself from others and seek medical attention immediately.

Mpox is a public health concern; however, with proper education, prevention strategies, and access to healthcare, the spread can be controlled. By working together and addressing potential disparities in healthcare access, we can ensure the Black community and all populations are protected from mpox.

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