The United States’ chief infectious disease expert warned that if history is a guide, monkeypox will likely hit Hispanics and Black communities disproportionately.
“Every disease we’ve seen of this type, there’s always been a disparity that weighs against and to the disadvantage of Brown and Black people,” Dr. Anthony Fauci , the director said of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a group of journalists Thursday.
While so far the disease has spread among gay and bisexual men, Fauci cautioned against labeling the virus as exclusive to the LGBTQ community.
Fauci fielded questions from a room full of journalists at the NAHJ-NABJ Convention and Career Fair via Zoom just hours after monkeypox was declared a public health emergency. That means federal agencies will have the power to access emergency funding, hire additional workers, and direct money toward developing vaccines and drugs to manage the virus’ spread.
As of Aug. 4, there have been just over 7,000 confirmed monkeypox cases in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including 26 in Nevada.
Fauci said, as with the COVID pandemic, Hispanic and Black communities are at a disadvantage because many of them lack access to preventative healthcare for underlying conditions, making them more susceptible to developing severe cases.
Recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention data shows monkeypox has followed a similar pattern.
According to a July ABC News report, Hispanics have accounted for 31% of monkeypox cases, and Blacks make up 27% of cases. Most of the cases are among gay and bisexual men.
Fauci encouraged physicians and healthcare providers to educate LGBTQ community leaders about the spread. He also cautioned against stigmatizing any group of people because, like HIV, the virus can be spread to anyone. He said he wants healthcare providers and community leaders to “make sure there is absolutely no pointing of fingers, blame or anything like that.”
“The enemy is the virus, not the people who are afflicted with the virus,” said Fauci.
Claudia Rivera Cotto is completing a masters degree in investigative journalism at the University of Missouri. She works as a teaching assistant for cross-cultural journalism as well as research assistant for the Watchdog Writers group. Reach her at claudia.riveracotto13 [at] gmail [dot] com and on Twitter at @claudiam_rivera.