Monkeypox in Milwaukee: Supervisor Burgelis seeks to raise awareness of new health hazard

County Supervisor Peter Burgelis issued a statement Aug. 3 following 22 known monkeypox infections in Wisconsin, including 3 in the city of Milwaukee and 4 others in Milwaukee County.

“With the arrival of the monkeypox virus in Milwaukee County, now is the time for action and equitable access to vaccines,” Supervisor Burgelis said. “This is a public health hazard, and we need to help coordinate public awareness and response.”

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) recently sent 200 doses of JYNNEOS vaccine to the city of Milwaukee and another 200 to the city of Cudahy’s health department – these appointments filled up quickly and there are a need for many more vaccine units. Wisconsin DHS has not indicated when or if more vaccines will be made available to Milwaukee County residents.

Dr. Benjamin Weston, Milwaukee County Chief Medical Officer, reported that with the recent increase in monkeypox cases, “there has been coordination at the state, county, and municipal level on the sharing of information and resources.

City of Milwaukee Health Commissioner Kirsten Johnson said “Vaccine appointments in Milwaukee have been filling up very quickly and we need more vaccines from DHS.” She added: “As soon as we have access to the vaccines, we will provide them to the community.”

Monkeypox is spread through close human contact and primarily affects members of the LGBTQ community. Supervisor Peter Burgelis, who is the first LGBTQ member of the Milwaukee County Board, added:

“Given what local municipalities have learned during the COVID pandemic, I am encouraged to see continued collaboration for the outbreak, and I urge the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to prioritize county residents of Milwaukee for increased vaccine availability. The LGBTQ and Milwaukee County community needs every resource available to be healthy and protected from this outbreak.

The Milwaukee City Health Department has advocated for wider vaccine distribution and said it needs thousands more doses. They asked Governor Evers for help in securing federal vaccine allocations.

“Milwaukee County will continue to follow the science to understand this specific disease and outbreak to best ensure that we can protect and ultimately strengthen the health of people inside and outside of our county,” added Dr Weston.

The UN health agency has said the monkeypox outbreak is an extraordinary situation that demands its highest level of concern.

According to the World Health Organization, 99% of cases outside Africa are in men and 98% of cases have been found in men who have sex with men.

Since May, the monkeypox virus has infected more than 25,000 people in more than 70 countries and more than 6,300 in the United States. More information about the local outbreak can be found on the Wisconsin DHS website.

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