Monkeypox cases are trending in the right direction, says Maryland’s top infectious diseases officer

The Maryland Department of Health and Human Services recently expanded eligibility requirements for monkeypox vaccines to reach more residents. At the same time, the state’s top infectious disease official says cases are declining. Maryland health clinics began offering the monkeypox vaccine on September 19 to residents who are at high risk, not just those who have been exposed to the disease within the past two weeks.

Individuals who have more than one sexual partner, men who have sex with men and immunocompromised individuals are now eligible to receive the vaccine under the new guidelines.

Peter DeMartino, the director of the Maryland Infectious Disease Prevention and Health Services Bureau, said the state has entered a new phase in its strategy to combat monkeypox.

“Pre-exposure prophylaxis is really about those who may have been exposed, but also those who might expect exposure,” DeMartino said.

The focus now is on vaccinating everyone at risk of exposure to curb the spread, he said.

“We’re really working with our local health officials who know their communities best,” he said.

Health departments statewide should have enough monkeypox vaccines for every resident who is at high risk of exposure or who has been exposed, he said.

Monkeypox is a virus that spreads between people through direct contact with skin lesions. Symptoms can include fever, body aches, chills, tiredness, and possibly rashes and lesions on the face and hands. Some people may need hospitalization, but most recover within a month.

Vaccines were in short supply earlier this year as the number of infections across Maryland rose from tens to hundreds in a matter of months. The federal government was sending out shots to states in batches.

The monkeypox vaccine injected in a special way, known as intradermal injection, allows health officials to stretch the number of doses that can be administered from each vial.

“Typically, a vaccine gets under the skin,” DiMartino said. “By actually injecting it into the skin, there are a lot of good cells that can join with this little vaccine and make more antibodies. We could vaccinate maybe five people now, which completely changes our parameters of how many vials we would need to vaccinate a given number of people.”

The monkeypox vaccine, similar to the COVID-19 vaccines, is given in two doses given about a month apart.

As of September 30, there have been 662 cases of monkeypox nationwide, the latest available data. Most of these cases are in Prince George’s County and Baltimore City.

Nearly 6,500 people have received their immunizations in the state, Health Department data shows.

DiMartino said the numbers are trending in the right direction, but there’s still a serious risk.

“The reality is we’re seeing a drop in cases right now,” he said. “Things are where we want them to be. We are optimistic.”

Members of the LGBTQ community also struggle with social shaming over the disease, which is most prevalent among men who have sex with men.

“The stigma makes it difficult to interact with LGBTQ people because they think we’re afflicted with disease,” said Ngaire Philip, the community development organizer at Baltimore Safe Haven, an organization focused on reaching out to vulnerable LGBTQ people. to help youngsters.

The LGBTQ community grappled with stereotypes and misconceptions as early as the 1980s HIV and AIDS epidemic, which advocates say was reignited by the spread of monkeypox.

“That’s the biggest bifurcation that it feels like it’s reignited that old stigma about exposure to and around LGBTQ people,” Philip said.

The state health department tries to combat misunderstanding and connect with those who need help most without alienating them.

“Stigma literally means a mark,” he said. “We leave marks on people’s skin. Most people will consider putting it on the forearm, but you can put it on the deltoid [where it’s less noticeable]. It’s about thinking through the process and the experience for people.”

Leave a Comment