Oregon’s monkeypox response focuses on LGBT community, state says

Monkeypox in the U.S.

All but seven states have reported monkeypox cases, as of July 19, 2022, including 32 in Oregon.


Oregon officials are working with the LGBTQIA+ community in an effort to stamp out a growing outbreak of monkeypox, a virus transmitted primarily through close contact that has already been identified in 32 Oregon men.

Infections in Oregon have mostly occurred among men who’ve been sexually active with other men, state epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger said at a news conference Wednesday.

“I want to assure most Oregonians that they are not at risk for getting an hMPXV infection,” Sidelinger said, referring to the official name of the virus. “This is not spread nearly as easily as COVID-19.”

Monkeypox spreads through close contact while someone is sick. The clearest sign of illness is rash or lesions, which Sidelinger said can be extremely painful. While no Americans have died of a monkeypox infection during the current outbreak, the virus has spread to more than 2,100 people in all but seven states.

Oregon’s case count is more than five times what it was almost two weeks ago, when officials reported six cases. And the current numbers are an undercount, Sidelinger said, because people are turning up sick with no previously known link to another infected person, indicating the virus is spreading in the community. He said that’s why the state and county health departments are reaching out to the specific communities most at risk.

Multnomah County officials have been contacting places where people might be at particular risk, such as bathhouses and gay bars, Sidelinger said. The state’s efforts have been targeted to the community of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual or who have other sexual or gender identities.

Vaccines against monkeypox exist and can be effective even after someone has been exposed to the virus. But shots are limited, so right now Oregon is giving them only to people at highest risk, including people who may have had recent sexual contact with strangers. As more doses become available, the state might expand eligibility to others at high risk.

— Fedor Zarkhin