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    Latinx Alert: The Monkeypox (MPX) Crisis and Managing Multiple Viral Stressors

    By Eduardo Morales, Ph.D.–

    Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation is faced with an ever-increasing number of monkeypox (MPX) cases due to a virus that is closely related to the virus that causes smallpox. Governor Newsom recently declared a state of emergency for California, given the rapid increase in the transmission of MPX. As of the first week of August, San Francisco reported 444 MPX cases compared to a handful of cases just a month ago. This rapid spread is most noted among Latinx individuals, comprising 28% of MPX cases as of this writing.

    MPX disproportionately affects the Latinx community, especially when the actual rate of their cases is compared to the expected rate of 15.2% by 2020 U.S. Census data. Although not as contagious as COVID-19, MPX is clearly of concern not only to LGBTQ Latinx men but also to others who are at high risk and should receive the MPX vaccine, according to the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH). Getting the vaccine soon after exposure to MPX helps prevent infection and developing symptoms. Given the rapid spread of MPX and the need for vaccines, Mayor London Breed declared a Public Health Emergency for MPX with SFDPH officials.

    AGUILAS, an HIV prevention program for Latinx LGBTQ+ individuals in San Francisco, has been facilitating MPX vaccine appointments, when possible, and had its staff and some of its program participants obtain these appointments on a limited basis. These folks thereby avoided the 6–8-hour lines for obtaining the MPX vaccine while helping to ensure the health of the Latinx LGBTQ+ community. Although two doses of the vaccine are recommended, the SFDPH is only providing one dose until more vaccines become available. For those at high risk for MPX who are insured by Kaiser, inquire about obtaining the MPX vaccine through this healthcare provider.

    As local social gatherings have increased in recent months, so has the probability of MPX transmission due to close physical contact. The medical consensus at present holds that the MPX virus responsible for the 2022 outbreak is most likely to be passed to another person when there is prolonged, physical contact or shared bedding, clothing, utensils, or sex toys. MPX is not as contagious as COVID-19 since it is not airborne, according to the CDC. (While it may be transmitted via respiratory droplets at close range, it does not spread through the air or over long distances in the way that COVID-19 can.)

    Testing for MPX is available at a clinic or healthcare provider. While waiting for your MPX test results, you should stay at home and away from others, put off travel on public transportation, alert others with whom you have had close contact since the start of your symptoms, and protect pets. Symptoms include blisters or spots, as well as other symptoms that can be mistaken for the flu, cold, or other viral infections; these may take one to two weeks to develop. More information about MPX is available on the CDC website in English and Spanish ( https://tinyurl.com/mr8n5mmd ) as well as on Telemundo in Spanish via the internet. Just enter “monkeypox” at the Telemundo website: https://www.telemundo.com/

    Managing Stress During the Concurrent Health Crisis

    There is a national campaign entitled #wellnessforall that was developed by various national ethnic psychological associations in partnership with Meta through Facebook and Provoc. I wrote about this earlier for the San Francisco Bay Times: https://tinyurl.com/2p9cjtmc

    This is the second year of the national campaign, which integrates culturally derived strategies supported by science for their efficacy. The national campaign is now underway via Facebook. Since the campaign’s inception last year, I have been involved as a partner.

    More immediate strategies for stress reduction include regulating your breathing (see tips on page 31), taking walks, exercising, eating properly, staying properly hydrated, obtaining social support, and doing other things that help you to relax. Consider taking power breaks of about 20 minutes each day, for example, or obtaining individual counseling, joining a support group, and being mindful of your temperament. Follow the CDC guidelines for COVID-19 and MPX to avoid being infected and experiencing recurring infections. Keep your health provider informed and up to date.

    I find that doing things that I enjoy, which make me happy while stimulating my interest and curiosity for knowledge and information, helps me cope and manage stress. These are challenging times complicated by various health crises affecting our everyday lives. If you adhered to the COVID-19 guidelines by wearing a KN95 mask and by maintaining social distancing, you are doing what is necessary to prevent infection for both COVID-19 and MPX. I am hopeful we will have these health crises behind us soon. Take advantage of health prevention programs available to you in your county, such as the prevention services offered at AGUILAS for Latinx LGBTQ+ individuals.

    Eduardo Morales, PhD, is one of the founders of AGUILAS, where he serves as Executive Director. He is also a Professor Emeritus and retired Distinguished Professor of Psychology at Alliant International University and is the current Past President of the National Latinx Psychological Association.

    Published on August 11, 2022