Sep 23, 2022 - News

Michigan sees disparity in monkeypox cases

Data: Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Census; Chart: Axios Visuals

Michigan has a worse racial disparity in monkeypox (MPV) cases than the nation at large.

Driving the news: Black Michiganders make up 56% of cases as of Monday where race was reported despite being just 14% of the state's population, per state data provided to Axios.

  • Nationally, Black Americans accounted for 31.1% of cases with race reported as of last month while making up 12.4% of the U.S. population, and the disparity is worsening.

Context: While MPV infections are currently overwhelmingly transmitted during sex between men, anyone can get the virus.

Catch up quick: Symptoms are similar to smallpox but milder and rarely fatal, though intense pain has been reported. It's spread through close, skin-to-skin contact.

  • Vaccines are available through Detroit, other health departments and LGBTQ+ centers.

By the numbers: Michigan reports 257 total monkeypox cases, with Detroit seeing the most — 86. Oakland County is second with 44.

  • Of Michiganders getting monkeypox, 98% are men, per the state.
  • Of those who reported sexuality, 93% identified as men who have sex with men.
  • As of mid-September, 7,698 total vaccine doses were administered.
  • Detroit-specific statistics are not available.

Yes, but: Michigan still has relatively few cases compared with other states like New York (3,810), Illinois (1,263) and Pennsylvania (713).

Zoom in: Detroit responded quickly to the outbreak by focusing on those most at-risk, Claudia Richardson, the city's medical director, tells Axios. The city coordinated with the state and allied with LGBTQ+ partners, including bath house Body Zone.

  • A challenge is providing resources without increasing shame or stigma after the legacy of HIV/AIDS.

Details: Michigan is applying for more vaccines to help address these disparities through a national MPV equity pilot program, the state Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement to Axios.

The big picture: The prevalence in Black and Latino communities mirrors problems faced with COVID-19, Dave Garcia, executive director of Ferndale's LGBTQ+ community center Affirmations, tells Axios.

What they're saying: "We still lack accessible education opportunities regarding infection protection," Curtis Lipscomb, executive director of LGBT Detroit, tells Axios. The nonprofit addresses monkeypox in a virtual program for Black and brown queer men and hosted two vaccination clinics.

  • A lack of keen attention to monkeypox has meant it's "left to the people who are most at-risk to think about how we're going to protect ourselves from transmission," Lipscomb says.

Editor's note: This story was corrected to note Claudia Richardson is the city's medical director, not deputy director of public health.


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