DENVER (KDVR) — Monkeypox cases are rapidly rising in the U.S., with cases surpassing 14,000 this week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced an additional supply of the limited vaccine is on the way. Still, medical experts are urging leaders to distribute the medicine to communities that need it.
Health officials have delivered messaging on the disease’s impact on people in the gay community, but new demographic data shows monkeypox is disproportionately affecting people of color, too.
“Similar to the data we experienced and what we saw with COVID-19, we are seeing overrepresentation of cases among some of our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) communities,” said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, the state epidemiologist of Colorado. “So we see an overrepresentation of cases in our Hispanic population and also our African American community.”
It is not just Colorado either. It is part of a national trend.
About 28% of the more than 14,000 cases in the U.S. are among African Americans, and nearly 33% are from Hispanic communities, despite Black and Hispanic communities only making up around 12% and 16% of the U.S. population, according to U.S. Census data.
“The percentages are almost identical to what we saw in COVID, and I think what that is demonstrating is that the healthcare system has a lot of work to do in providing equal care to all populations,” said Dr. Reginald Washington, chief medical officer for Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center.
Washington said the reason for the disproportionate number of cases in communities of color may have less to do with ancestry and more to do with equity.
“There’s no evidence, absolutely no evidence that monkeypox is more contagious, for example, in one population or another,” Washington said. “Minorities have inadequate access to the healthcare system. That means they will have delays in seeking treatment and getting and receiving treatment. They also have a delay in finding healthcare sites that will care for them, and there’s also a delay in even admitting that they may have a problem.”
It is an issue the White House says it is working on. The administration also launched an effort to vaccinate people at Pride events, but they said there are plans are in the works for similar efforts in the Black and Latino communities.