Maryland health officials have launched a dashboard to drill down on monkeypox cases, and the latest figures show 461 cases mostly in Baltimore City and the Washington, D.C. suburbs.
Infections disproportionately affect black residents, almost half of the time, and these are mostly young people. Nearly half, 47.5%, are in their 30s and about a quarter are in their 20s.
The Dashboard was created by the Maryland Department of Health to better understand the impact of the latest virus circulating in the state and how to channel information and resources.
“This tool will help healthcare providers deliver the care they need to Marylanders affected by human monkeypox,” Maryland Health Secretary Dennis R. Schrader said in a statement. “The dashboard is also based on the government’s information on monkeypox in humans to help residents stay healthy and safe.”
Officials plan to update the dashboard on Fridays and include case counts by jurisdiction and demographic information, including age, gender, race and ethnicity.
Of the 461 cases statewide, 133 occurred in Baltimore City, 36 in Baltimore County and 29 in Ann Arundel County, with the rest in Montgomery and Prince George counties.
The dashboard also lists the vaccination numbers. As of August 26, 2124 people were vaccinated, which is not enough. They are mainly given to close contacts of the infected, as well as medical and laboratory workers who may have been exposed.
Health departments will distribute the two-dose vaccine if federal supplies allow. However, state officials are concentrating on local health departments in Baltimore City and Montgomery, Prince George and Baltimore counties, where the number of cases is highest.
Departments are offering the vaccine to self-identified partners of people with infections, individuals in high-risk groups who report having sex with multiple partners, or who work in places where monkeypox transmission has been reported.
“Our goal is to give Marylanders most at risk of contracting monkeypox the opportunity to get the vaccine,” Deputy Health Secretary Dr. Jinlin Chan said in a statement. “If you think you may have contracted human monkeypox or are eligible for a free vaccine, contact your local health department.”
Monkeypox was first detected in Maryland on June 16, about a month after cases began to emerge across the country. There are currently 17,432 cases in the US, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Monkeypox is spread by close contact with an infected person, and public health experts were initially baffled, saying that the virus, which is endemic to African countries, rarely spreads from person to person, but rather from animals. It has largely begun to spread through groups of men having sex with men. Officials have been slow to respond to the infections, which were first seen in Europe where they are rarely seen, and rushed to distribute tests and vaccines and develop proper messages to warn the most-at-risk public.
Monkeypox is not usually fatal, but causes painful lesions and swollen lymph nodes, fever, and chills. People often need weeks of isolation to recover.
A study published by the CDC on August 26 found that the messaging was designed to alert relevant populations, but to prevent the spread of stigma. About half of the gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men surveyed began to reduce the number of sexual partners, one-time sex and use of dating apps after the monkeypox outbreak.
Receipt of the vaccine used before and after infection to prevent monkeypox varied by race, ethnicity, and geography. Approximately one in five of the approximately 3,000 respondents reported having received a vaccine. Uptake was highest among Hispanic men and lowest among black men and higher in urban and suburban areas.
“It is important that federal, state, and local public health programs continue to provide personalized, respectful harm reduction messages that do not stigmatize communities” of men who have sex with men, the CDC report says. “Vaccination programs should prioritize efforts to maximize equitable access to vaccines to prevent monkeypox.”