As cases continue to rise across the country and North Texas, Dallas County Health and Human Services and Dallas Southern Pride are hosting a virtual town hall Monday on the growing monkeypox outbreak.
The event, which began online at 7 p.m., aimed to offer attendees verified information on how the outbreak is affecting communities of color in particular. Dr. Philip Huang, Director and Health Authority for the Dallas County Health and Human Services Department, was scheduled to attend.
Monkeypox has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization, joining a list of other outbreaks including COVID-19. The outbreak is primarily caused by men who have sex with other men, according to an NBC News report.
Dallas County, which has the highest number of cases in the state, has responded to the growing outbreak by receiving a shipment of vaccinations although city leaders say more is needed.
The county received 5,120 monkeypox vaccine doses last week, more than any other North Texas county. Tarrant County received 1,000 doses while Denton and Collin each received 500 doses.
To register for the event, visit this link here.
The latest news from around North Texas.
Cory Witt of Dallas says he’s on the mend after a three-week bout with monkeypox. An outing with friends over the Fourth of July weekend left him with several symptoms before painful sores appeared on his body.
“I had sweated through my shirt and was sent home that day. From there, I suffered pretty much a three-day migraine,” he said. “I started experiencing pain in my lymph nodes.”
WHO IS GETTING MONKEYPOX IN DALLAS COUNTY?
According to Dallas County Health and Human Services, 161 people in Dallas County have suspected cases of monkeypox. They range in age from 18 to 71 years old, 158 are men and three are women. Although the viral disease does not exclusively affect gay men, a large portion of cases in the county involve men who have sex with other men, according to DCHHS.
The number of infected individuals has grown from zero cases a few months ago, according to DCHHS Director Dr. Philip Huang.
“You can definitely see the number is increasing,” he said.
HOW DOES MONKEYPOX SPREAD?
Huang emphasizes monkeypox does not spread as easily as COVID-19 spreads.
The viral disease with flu-like symptoms can be spread to anyone through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact, including direct contact with monkeypox rash, scabs; touching objects that have been used by someone with monkeypox and contact with respiratory secretions, according to the CDC.
“There is the possibility of transmission from soiled sheets and clothing and things,” said Huang.
RAISING AWARENESS OF MONKEYPOX PREVENTION
In an effort to spread awareness, DCHHS is partnering with community organizations that work closely with the LGBTQ community for a virtual informational town hall meeting on Monday.
Huang says the federal government sent 5,000 doses of monkeypox vaccines to Dallas County last week and DCHHS expects additional doses next week.
Still, Huang says the county will need more vaccines in order to help treat those with the early-onset of monkeypox and to help prevent the disease in others.
“We want to, in addition to the person to been exposed to actual monkeypox, get it to some of the highest risk groups,” said Huang. “Some of those that have men who have sex with men, who have multiple partners or perhaps have traded sex, for money.”
Witt said he and a group of friends in the LGBTQ community spent the holiday at a private gym and at pool parties with friends. Days later, he and other men in the group began experiencing similar symptoms.
“We were all working out shirtless, and the equipment must have had some germs on it,” he said.
“I didn't have that much sexual contact with these men," Witt said. "We're friends we did the gym and the pool, and I still get sick.”
Witt hopes to combat any possible stigma surrounding the viral disease.
Huang says stigma could make mitigating the disease more difficult, including for men who are not open about sexual contact with other men.
“Gay men are part of our society and so, for this virus to be affecting us, it affects everybody,” said Witt. “You have friends and families who could get sick and infect others.”
Get updates on what's happening in North Texas to your inbox. Sign up for our News Headlines newsletter.