By Max Darrow | June 29, 2024

SAN FRANCISCO — With an Mpox (formerly monkeypox) outbreak ongoing in the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa, global health experts are urging people who are at higher risk of contracting the virus to take steps to keep themselves healthy.

“Within Pride Month, we want to make sure that we have our community up to date and aware,” said Scott Bertani, with the National Coalition for LGBTQ Health. “As of May, the nation has seen roughly about 150 percent increase in cases of the current disease, which is Clade 2.”

Although case counts are low here, Bertani says they are higher than they were last year.

“We are far under the total aggregate case numbers of what we saw in 2022 but we are doubling the case numbers of what we saw in 2023, which suggests there remains an opportunity to have lots of ongoing vigilance,” Bertani said. “The concern is that as individuals become less vaccinated and if we’re seeing less vaccination within the LGBTQ community which is mostly at risk if another strain comes along, we may be less protected.”

The San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) says it is closely monitoring the outbreak overseas. Mpox predominantly affects men who have sex with men. However, it can also spread through non-sexual contact.

SFDPH provided CBS News Bay Area with the following statement:

SFDPH is closely monitoring global mpox activity, including the clade I mpox outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Being fully vaccinated remains the best way for people to protect themselves against mpox infection and we are encouraging people to seek the mpox vaccine this summer.  

While anyone who wants protection from mpox infection may seek a vaccine, SFDPH strongly recommends and encourages two-dose vaccination for all people living with HIV, anyone taking or eligible to take HIV PrEP and all men, trans people and nonbinary people who have sex with men, trans people or nonbinary people.  

 It takes two doses to be fully vaccinated against mpox. Individuals can receive their second dose of the mpox vaccine if it has been at least 28 days since their first dose. There is no need to restart the two-dose series if it has been over 28 days since the first dose. Booster doses are not recommended at this time for those who have completed the two-dose series. In addition, mpox vaccination is not recommended at this time for those who have previously been infected.  

“The vaccination is absolutely key and critical and it’s widely available,” Bertani said. “Unlike previous years, there is a plethora of vaccine. So it is out there. It’s possible that we can really stamp out mpox.”

Bertani says Pride Month is an important time to educate people about the steps they can take to keep themselves healthy and prevent spread of the virus.

“As we celebrate Pride, it’s really crucial to prioritize our health,” he said. “This really is an opportunity to engage in health equity conversations and really take some proactive steps to protect ourselves and our community.”