Sep 16, 2022 - News

Monkeypox is disproportionately impacting Utah Latinos

Utah monkeypox cases by race/ethnicity
Data: Utah Department of Health and Human Services/U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Tory Lysik/Axios

Utah monkeypox case records show the virus is disproportionately affecting Latino and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander communities.

By the numbers: Utah has reported 127 cases as of Sept. 13. Latinos account for nearly 15% of the state population, but make up about 35% of reported monkeypox cases, according to state health department data obtained by Axios Salt Lake City.

  • Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders make up about 1% of Utahns, but they represent nearly 5% of cases.
  • Non-Hispanic, white Utahns make up about half of monkeypox cases, but 77% of the state population.

Of note: State health officials did not provide the ethnicity or race breakdown for 12 cases due to privacy concerns.

Meanwhile, the percentage of monkeypox vaccines provided to Latinos and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders mirrors their share of the state population.

Zoom out: Nationwide, U.S. Latino and Black communities are more likely to contract monkeypox, according to the CDC, but are less likely to have access to a vaccine.

  • It's why the CDC is launching an equity pilot program with local and state health departments to address these racial disparities.

Separately, national and local health officials also say the virus is being spread overwhelmingly via sex between men.

Yes, but: Anyone can contract the virus through close skin-to-skin contact.

Between the lines: It's not yet clear what's driving the racial disparity among monkeypox patients, Dr. Chyke Doubeni, chief health equity officer at The Ohio State University, told CNN Health. But, like the coronavirus, it's not the first disease to show such racial differences.

  • "I would say as a public health community, we're very good at repeating the same mistakes multiple times," Doubeni said. "It's the same story, the same underlying causes. There are barriers to care and information."

Worth noting: Public agencies and advocacy groups, like the Salt Lake County Health Department and Utah Pride Center, currently distribute critical monkeypox information in Spanish.

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