Monkeypox cases continue to surge as Hispanic and Black journalists gather in Las Vegas

This image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) shows a colorized transmission electron micrograph of monkeypox particles (red) found within an infected cell (blue), cultured in the laboratory that was captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility (IRF) in Fort Detrick, Md. The World Health Organization recently declared the expanding monkeypox outbreak a global emergency. It is WHO’s highest level of alert, but the designation does not necessarily mean a disease is particularly transmissible or lethal. (NIAID via AP)

As the recent wave of monkeypox takes over the country and cases continue to rise, university students, professional journalists and other attendees have gathered this week at a week-long journalism conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.

This year, the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists are holding their annual meet-up in person for the first time in years, since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.

Though coronavirus is more prevalent in the United States, more people are becoming concerned with monkeypox and the physical toll it takes on the human body.

Nevada currently has 23 confirmed cases of monkeypox, according to the CDC’S map and case count of monkeypox cases in the country.

Though these numbers are relatively low compared to other states in the country, today, the administration of United States President Joe Biden, declared a public health emergency with the rising cases of monkeypox. It is imperative now, more than ever, for all Americas “to take monkeypox seriously,” said U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra.

Monkeypox is primarily spread not only through close contact with an infected person but also through touching materials that have been contaminated by an infected person, such as, “bed linens, bandages or dishes they have used or surfaces or items they have touched.”

David Peña, National Association of Hispanic Journalists executive director, told The Latino Reporter his organization and NABJ are taking precautions.

“The protocol that we are having with regard to either masking, hand sanitizers and social distance for COVID are the same ones we are having for monkeypox,” Peña said.

Worthington Moore, a student member of the NABJ 2022 Students Project in Las Vegas, said he thinks the journalism organizations are taking the right preventative measures against monkeypox.

Moore said outside of the conference, however, health protocols seem to be lacking.

Amos Francis, a guest at Caesars Palace, said he and his brother have been worried about their health while staying in Las Vegas.

“When I was coming here I was kind of nervous,” Francis said. “Me and my brother were actually trying to disinfect everything, and we tried not to shake people’s hands as often.”

Monkeypox cases have remained relatively low compared to other states in the U.S. like New York, where CDC reports 1,617 cases in the state. However, the Las Vegas Review-Journal said on Monday that monkeypox has been detected in Southern Nevada’s wastewater.

This discovery suggests that the 23 cases reported in Clark County may be currently underestimated.

The Southern Nevada Health District says that monkeypox is a rare disease and that, “the risk of monkeypox in the general population remains very low based on the information available.”

This can be especially concerning for members of the cleaning staff, like Cecilia, who works at the Caesars Palace. 

“Even though I try to protect myself, the risk is still there,” Cecilia said in Spanish. “There are too many rooms.”

Cecilia said the hotel has regulations for preventing the spread of monkeypox, however, the routine for cleaning hotel rooms has mostly stayed the same since before the outbreak.

“We have to disinfect everything,” she said. 

Currently, Nevada does not have any regulations to prevent the potential spread of monkeypox. 

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