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'This is not a disease of the LGBTQ+ community' | Health leaders urge understanding as monkeypox cases spike in DC

DC has the highest rate of monkeypox cases per capita in the U.S., according to CDC data.

Since May, 122 cases of monkeypox have been reported in D.C., and 560 people have been deemed close contacts, most of whom are D.C. residents. 

In a news conference Monday, Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt clarified that while most of the cases affect white, gay men – anyone can contract monkeypox and urged all residents to remain vigilant. According to DC Health, 63% of the patients are white, 24% black, 96% are men and 82% identify as gay.  

“This is not a disease of the LGBTQ plus community," Dr. Nesbitt said. "It’s important that we do not create stigma at this time, and we encourage individuals to be on the lookout for symptoms.”

Monkeypox is a rare but potentially serious viral illness that can be transmitted from person to person through direct contact with bodily fluids or monkeypox lesions. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, chills, exhaustion and swollen lymph nodes. About 1 to 3 days later patients will see a rash appear on their faces and body.

“It’s important to identify cases of monkeypox very early because that’s one of the best ways to prevent ongoing spread,” Nesbitt said. 

The District launched a new website, PreventMonkeyPox.DC.Gov, and is encouraging members of the LGBTQ plus community to register for a vaccine. Right now, the city has received 8,300 vaccines with another 4,000 doses scheduled to arrive next week. The federal distribution is based on the number of cases. 

Right now, Dr. Nesbitt said the city is focused on getting the first shot of the two-dose vaccine to residents through the District's two clinics (open Sunday- Friday 1-8 p.m.) and partnered health providers. Pop-up clinics throughout the city, including at the new homeless shelter for LGBTQ adults, are also in the works. 

“The majority of our cases are happening here, and the majority of our close contacts are here," Nesbitt said. "So we have to prioritize getting those doses into our D.C. residents." 

RELATED: Monkeypox vaccinations were booked quickly in DC; here's how to prepare for the next availability

RELATED: DC's first LGBTQ+ shelter for adults opens

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