NYC HEALTH COMMISSIONER ON THE CITY’S RESPONSE TO THE MONKEYPOX HEALTH CRISIS

Encore: August 05, 2022

New York City Mayor Eric Adams declared a local state of emergency this week due to the monkeypox outbreak. This comes after Governor Kathy Hochul declared a ‘disaster emergency’ in the State of New York. The city has reported over 1,500 monkeypox cases, which accounts for over a quarter of the total U.S. case count. New York City’s Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan joins us with the latest information city officials have learned about the origin of the disease, how it is transmitted, the symptoms, and what all communities can do to keep safe as this virus spreads.

For more information on monkeypox, click here.

 

Aired on August 3, 2022

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JACK FORD.

NEW YORK STATE AND CITY HAVE BOTH DECLARED STATES OF EMERGENCY OVER THE CONTINUED SPREAD OF MONKEYPOX.

NEW YORK HAS BECOME THE EPICENTER OF OVER 1,000 CONFIRMED CASES IN NEW YORK CITY ALONE.

CONFUSION REGARDING WHO CAN GET MONKEYPOX, WHAT THE SYMPTOMS ARE AND THE CURRENT LACK OF AVAILABLE VACCINES HAVE ALL LEFT NEW YORKERS FEELING ON EDGE AND WONDERING IF THIS MAY LEAD TO YET ANOTHER PANDEMIC.

JOINING US NOW TO ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS ABOUT MONKEYPOX AND TELL US HOW WE CAN BEST PROTECT OURSELVES FROM IT IS DR. ASHWIN VASSAN WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE AND WE'RE TLIETED TO HAVE HIM HERE WITH US.

THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

LET'S TURN THIS INTO A PLED CAL SCHOOL TEACHING CLASS IF WE CAN.

I HAVE A SERIES OF QUESTIONS AND LET ME THROW THEM AT YOU AND GET ANSWERS LEAR FOR OUR VIEWERS.

LET'S START OFF WITH THE DISEASE ITSELF.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS THAT PEOPLE SHOULD BE LOOKING FOR?

THAT'S A GREAT QUESTION, AND I'M GLAD WE CAN TAKE THE TIME TO DO THIS METHODICALLY, MONKEYPOX, MPX, AS WE'RE CALLING IT IS AN ORTHOPOX VIRUS AND RELATED, BUT NOT THE SAME AS SMALLPOX.

AS THE PUBLIC MIGHT KNOW, SMALLPOX HAS BEEN ERADICATED FROM THE FACE OF THE EARTH THROUGH GLOBAL VACCINATION EFFORTS.

SMALLPOX WAS DISCOVERED MOSTLY IN WESTERN AND CENTRAL AFRICA IN THE 1970s AND HAS BEEN ENDEMIC IN THOSE REGIONS, BUT WE HAVE NEVER SEEN WIDESPREAD CASES OUTSIDE OF THE REGION.

THE SYMPTOMS THAT PEOPLE USUALLY ASSOCIATE WITH THAT ENDEMIC VERSION IS WIDESPREAD LESIONS ACROSS THE BODY, FEVER, SWOLLEN GLANDS AND FLU-LIKE ILLNESS ASK IN THE MAIN, THIS IS A NON-FATAL CONDITION AND MOST PEOPLE HAVE SELF-RESOLVING SYMPTOMS THOUGH THEY CAN BE PRETTY SIGNIFICANT SCARRING AND DISFIGURATION THAT RESULTS FROM IT.

NOW THIS IS AN OLD VIRUS AND ITS ENTERED A NEW POPULATION AND FRANKLY, IT'S DISPROPORTIONATELY AFFECTING THE SOCIAL AND SEXUAL NETWORKS OF GAY MEN.

MEN WHO HAVE SEX WITH MEN, AND WE ARE SEEING SYMPTOMS THAT ARE SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT AND MIGHT BE ASSOCIATED WITH THE ROUTE OF TRANSMISSION WHICH IS THROUGH CLOSE SKIN TO SKIN AND SEXUAL CONTACT.

SO INSTEAD OF WIDESPREAD LESIONS AROUND THE BODY, WE'RE SEEING MORE LESIONS IN THE ANAL AND GENITAL REGION AS WELL AS LESIONS IN THE GROIN AS WELL AS PEOPLE WHO ARE GETTING MORE WIDESPREAD DISSEMINATED LESIONS AND WE'RE STILL SEEING THE FLU-LIKE ILLNESS AND THE SWOLLEN GLANDS AND THE OVERALL MALAISE ASSOCIATED WITH IT AND FOR THE THOUSANDS OF CASES NOW THAT WE'RE SEEING AROUND THE WORLD, THE VAST MAJORITY ARE SELF-LIMITED AND THOUGH THEY CAN BE EXTRAORDINARILY PAINFUL AND EXTRAORDINARILY UNCOMFORTABLE.

YOU TALK ABOUT SKIN TO SKIN TRANSMISSION AND WHY THAT CLUSTER, LET'S CALL THEM, IS BECOMING SO SUSCEPTIBLE TO IT.

ARE THERE OTHER MEANS OF TRANSMISSION THAT WE SHOULD BE CONCERNED ABOUT?

YEAH.

RIGHT NOW THE PRINCIPAL MODE OF TRANSMISSION IS CLOSE, PROLONGED SKIN TO SKIN CONTACT.

IT COULD BE WITH A LESION OR BROKEN SKIN AND IT COULD BE WITH A LESION AND SKIN WITH MICROABRASIONS.

WHAT WE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT CASUAL BRUSHING BY OR SHAKING HANDS OR A QUICK HUG.

WE ARE TALKING ABOUT CLOSE, PROLONGED, SKIN TO SKIN CONTACT.

WE ALSO KNOW IT CAN PASS IN SYMPTOMATIC PEOPLE THROUGH RESPIRATORY DROPLETS AND THAT IS HEAVY DROPLETS FROM BREATHING OR COUGHING, FACE TO FACE, AGAIN FOR PROLONGED PERIODS.

NOT AIRBORNE TRANSMISSION.

SO NOT IN A ROOM OR WALKING THROUGH GRAND CENTRAL STATION.

THAT'S NOT WHAT WE'RE CONCERNED ABOUT HERE IN TERMS OF DROPLETS.

DEFINITELY NOT AND, LOOK, THERE'S AN INCREASING BODY OF EVIDENCE THAT WE'RE FINDING THE PRESENCE OF THE ORTHOPOX MPX VIRUS IN BODILY FLUIDS LIKE SALIVA, SEEMEN AND BLOOD.

NOT SURPRISING, BUT WHAT WE ARE STILL TRYING TO FIGURE OUT IS WHETHER IT IS FORMALLY A SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED ILLNESS MEANING THE PASSAGE OF BODILY FLUIDS THAT ARE INFECTED WITH THE VIRUS ARE CAUSING INFECTION EVER ANOTHER UNINFECTED PERSON, THERE IS SUSPICION OF THIS, BUT REFRAINING FROM SEXUAL CONTACT REDUCES THE RISK OF GETTING MPX, MONKEYPOX OR TRANSMITTING IT.

WHO RIGHT NOW, LET'S SHIFT THE FOCUS THE VACCINE AND WHO RIGHT NOW ARE ELIGIBLE FOR THE VACCINE AND WHAT ARE THE OPPORTUNITIES TO GET IT IN NEW YORK CITY RIGHT NOW?

IN NEW YORK CITY WE ARE DISTRIBUTING THE GENEOS VACCINE AND THAT'S A TWO-DOSE REGIMEN APPROVED BY THE FDA TO ALL HIGH-RISK INDIVIDUALS THAT IS MEN WHO HAVE SEX WITH MEN OR TRANS PEOPLE WHO HAVE HAD MULTIPLE AND/OR ANONYMOUS SEXUAL PARTNERS IN THE LAST TWO WEEKS AND WE ARE DOING THIS BECAUSE THESE ARE THE PEOPLE MOST AT RISK OF GETTING OR TRANSMITTING THE ORTHOPOX MPX VIRUS.

THE OTHER GROUP THAT'S ELIGIBLE IS PEOPLE WITH UNDERLYING DEFICIENCY BECAUSE WE THINK THAT THESE ARE PEOPLE WHO ARE MOST AT RISK OF HAVING A SEVERE OUTCOME SHOULD THEY BE INFECTED WITH MPX.

SO THAT'S WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR THE VACCINE NOW IN AN ENVIRONMENT OF EXTREMELY CONSTRAINED SUPPLY.

IF WE HAD MORE SUPPLY WE COULD THINK OF A MORE LIBERAL APPROACH TO VACCINATION AND WE DON'T HAVE THE SUPPLY NOW.

DO YOU ANTICIPATE THE SUPPLY EXPANDING SOME TIME SOON?

NEW YORK CITY IS THE EPICENTER OF THE OUTBREAK HERE IN THE UNITED STATES.

WE REPRESENT MORE THAN 25% OF ALL THE CASES IN THE COUNTRY AND WE NEED TO BE GETTING VACCINES PROPORTIONATE TO THAT IMPACT AND THUS FAR WE HAVEN'T YET SEEN THAT.

NEW YORKERS CAN GET VACCINATED AT A SERIES OF MASS VACCINATION CLINICS THAT ARE STANDING UP AND OUR BRICK AND MORTAR SEXUAL HEALTH CLINICS THAT WE HAVE THROUGH THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AS WELL AS PARTNERS IN NEW YORK CITY HEALTH AND HOSPITALS AND PUBLIC HOSPITAL SYSTEMS AND WE'LL BE INCREASINGLY BUILDING MORE ACCESS TO THE VACCINE AS WE GET MORE.

THIS IS ALSO WHY NEW YORK HAS BEEN OUT IN FRONT WITH A ONE-DOSE VACCINATIONS STRATEGY.

OF COURSE, WE AGREED WITH THE FDA THAT TWOS DOES IS IDEAL, BUT AS WE LEARNED WITH COVID IT'S IMPORTANT TO GET SHOTS IN ARMS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE.

SO ALL OF THE DOSES THAT WE CURRENTLY HAVE ARE BEING USED AS SINGLE DOSES.

I KNOW YOU HAVE SAID IN THE PAST YOU'D LIKE TO SEE THIS NAME CHANGED FROM MONKEYPOX.

VERY QUICKLY, IF YOU COULD TELL ME WHY?

LOOK, I DESCRIBED THAT MONKEYPOX IS AN OLD VIRUS THAT HAS ITS ROOTS IN AFRICA.

IT WAS DISCOVERED BY, YOU KNOW, WESTERN SCIENTISTS IN THAT ENVIRONMENT AND IN PUBLIC HEALTH WE KNOW THAT THERE'S A LONG HISTORY OF THE LANGUAGE WE USE AND THE NAMES WE GIVE TO CONDITIONS AS POTENTIALLY ENABLING OR STIGMATIZING AND THIS ISN'T JUST A QUESTION OF LANGUAGE AND WHAT I THINK IS POLITICALLY CORRECT OR WHAT YOU THINK IS POLITICALLY CORRECT.

THIS IS ABOUT SAVING LIVES AND STIGMA AND DISCRIMINATION INCLUDING THE LANGUAGE WE USE PUSHES PEOPLE INTO THE SHADOWS AND CAUSES THEM TO DELAY SEEKING CARE AND CAN WORSEN LIVES AND SAVE LIVES IF WE DON'T ADDRESS IT.

IT'S SOMETHING TO KEEP IN MIND.

VERY IMPORTANT.

DR. ROSSUM, THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR HELPING US UNDERSTAND.

WE'LL TALK TO YOU IN THE NEAR FUTURE.

YOU BE WELL NOW.

THANKS SO MUCH.

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