DC reports largest monkeypox outbreak per capita in US

D.C. is experiencing the largest outbreak of monkeypox per capita in the nation, and the District is distributing monkeypox vaccine by appointment as quickly as vaccine deliveries come in from federal sources.

The District has reported 122 cases of monkeypox since May; no one has died.

“Anyone who comes into contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with monkeypox, we want to quickly get them vaccinated. It’s important that we try to identify those people who have been in contact with someone who’s had monkeypox within four days and to get them vaccinated within 14 days,” said DC Health’s director, Dr. LaQuandra S. Nesbitt, during a Monday news briefing.

While anyone can get monkeypox, 96% of D.C.’s cases are in men; 82% identify as gay. The majority of cases are in people 30 to 34 years old.

D.C. residents are asked to pre-register for a vaccination appointment at preventmonkeypox.dc.gov. Even people who are not currently eligible for vaccine are invited to pre-register for appointments. They’ll be contacted if eligibility changes and appointments become available.

Those eligible to receive the monkeypox vaccine are D.C. residents who are at least 18 years old and who are:

  • Gay or bisexual males who have sex with men and have had any anonymous sexual partners in the last 14 days.
  • Transgender women or nonbinary persons assigned male at birth who have sex with men.
  • Sex workers (of any sexual orientation/gender).
  • Staff (of any sexual orientation/gender) at establishments where sexual activity occurs (e.g., bathhouses, saunas, sex clubs).

Monkeypox might feel like the flu initially with symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle aches, chills, exhaustion and swollen lymph nodes.

There also can be a rash and lesions on the skin. The rash can look like pimples or blisters that appear on the face, inside the mouth and on other body parts such as the hands, feet, chest, genitals or anus.

If you have symptoms, “You want to call your doctor, your other health care providers and get in and try to get tested. It should be easy to get tested. All the commercial labs have testing capabilities,” said Naseema Shafi, CEO of Whitman Walker Health. “And then there are options for treatment, but they’re pretty limited.”

Shafi emphasized that anyone not feeling well should stay home until they’re better, and anyone with a rash should avoid contact with others.

“There is no specific treatment for monkeypox. However, there are a couple of medications that are available to treat smallpox that can be used to shorten the course of illness or maybe have the rash clear up earlier for people who are diagnosed with monkeypox,” Nesbitt said. “We’ve been using that therapy here in the District of Columbia; we’ve been working with health care providers so that they can access it.”

D.C. has two monkeypox vaccination sites for people with appointments. You can find additional information on DC Health’s website.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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