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African Americans Comprise Disproportionately High Percentage of Monkeypox Cases; Growing Movement Against Making Blacks the Face of the Outbreak

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Staff

Data from 43 states compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that Black and Hispanics are the most impacted by the outbreak of Monkeypox in the United States, making up a disproportionate share of the 4,600 cases that were reported through July 22. African Americans comprised 27 percent of monkeypox cases compared to 13 percent of the population.
The CDC noted that Hispanic people accounted for 31 percent of cases while comprising 19 percent of the population.

In Georgia, 82% of those infected by the disease were black, a majority of them residing in the Atlanta metro area.

Additionally, CDC officials reported that areas with high numbers of cases that did not submit case reports are more racially and ethnically diverse.

“As such, the reported data may understate disparities,” CDC officials noted. “Moreover, the share of cases among Black people has risen in recent weeks, suggesting widening disparities for this group.”

A “substantial proportion” of monkeypox cases have been reported among people with HIV, who may be at higher risk of severe illness and while there is no evidence the disease is sexually transmitted, 99% of monkeypox patients were of the male sex (at birth) and the vast majority of cases occurred during some form of sexual contact.

The CDC also said the median age of monkeypox patients is 35 with cases identified between those aged 17 to 76, excluding two pediatric cases.

“Vaccine inequity hurts our efforts to stop monkeypox,” former CDC director and New York City health commissioner Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said on Twitter. “We need to direct limited vaccines to the communities most at risk. Presently in the U.S., data shows Black, Latino and HIV-positive men who have sex with men as being infected at disproportionately high rates.”

As of August 16, the CDC has identified 12,689 monkeypox cases in the United States. Worldwide, there are upwards of 38,000 cases, most in countries where monkeypox had not been reported prior to this outbreak.

Los Angeles County reports 962 cases in a population of about 9.8 million. Of the cases with available data, 37% are Latino, 35% are white, 11% are Black and about 7% are Asian, Pacific Islander, multiracial or other.

The current monkeypox outbreak outside countries in Central and West Africa was first reported in May in the United Kingdom, with cases soon appearing in major cities in Europe, Canada and the United States. While many of these early cases were among white men who reported international travel, the picture has since shifted.

So too has the media coverage of it as there have been growing criticism surrounding international outlets that are using images of Black people to illustrate their stories and tweets about the spread of monkeypox.

“We condemn the perpetuation of this negative stereotype that assigns calamity to the African race and privilege and immunity to other races,” read a statement from a group of journalists who cover Africa for global outlet.

“Is the media in the business of ‘preserving White purity’ through ‘Black criminality or culpability’?”

Some scientists have also been critical of the name “monkeypox” stating that it played into racist stereotypes about Black people, Africa and LGBTQ people — while also falsely suggesting monkeys are the main source of the virus.

“Monkeypox should be renamed for two major reasons,” said Dr. Ifeanyi Nsofor, a global health equity advocate and senior New Voices fellow at the Aspen Institute. “First, there is a long history of referring to Blacks as monkeys. Therefore, ‘monkeypox’ is racist and stigmatizes Blacks.”

To that end, a movement to change the name of the virus is gaining steam. In June, the World Health Organization announced that it would rename monkeypox in the next year or two.

In the meantime, the Biden-Harris administration on Thursday announced it would increase America’s supply of monkeypox vaccine by making an additional 1.8 million doses of Bavarian Nordic’s Jynneos vaccine available for ordering beginning Monday, Aug. 22.


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