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LGBT activists criticize Ohio, federal response to monkeypox outbreak

Posted at 6:52 AM, Aug 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-05 07:37:11-04

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Some in Cleveland’s LGBTQ community are blasting Ohio's and the federal government's monkeypox response. The criticism comes as cases rise in the state and nationally.

Thursday, the White House declared the virus a public health emergency. As of Wednesday, August 3, the CDC reported 6,617 confirmed cases nationwide. There have been 34 cases confirmed in Ohio, including 10 in the city of Cleveland.

“I’m hearing from people all the time here in the state that they are terrified of monkeypox because they’ve seen the pictures, they’ve seen people post on social media who’ve contracted it,” said Kenyon Farrow, an activist and board member at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland.


Monkeypox typically manifests with flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, chills, body aches and swollen lymph nodes. After a fever, a rash and lesions often appear, typically on the face, and spread elsewhere on the body. Symptoms may take 1-2 weeks to appear after infection and can last 2-4 weeks. No U.S. cases have been reported to be fatal.


The CDC says monkeypox is not as easily transmissible as other viruses, namely COVID-19. It can be passed through direct contact with infectious sores or body fluids or by touching objects, fabrics —such as towels and bedding — and surfaces used by someone with monkeypox.

Anyone can be infected by and spread monkeypox, but recent cases have predominantly affected men who have sex with other men. The outbreak in the LGBT community has prompted the World Health Organization to recommend gay and bisexual men limit their sexual partners to protect themselves and slow transmission.


The declaration of a federal public health emergency will free up funds and resources to mitigate the outbreak.

Farrow told News 5 Thursday he was disappointed in the state and federal response so far.

“It was very surprising to me actually that both the state of Ohio, and frankly, even the federal government’s response to monkeypox was so slow and disjointed and not coordinated after we just had an experience with COVID-19,” he said.

He explained the LGBT Center has been receiving numerous inquiries about the virus in recent weeks.

“They’re just getting phone calls left and right and fielding phone calls because people are desperate to try to get vaccinated,” he said. “Due to the slow response from the state, most of what’s happened has been individuals and some organizations.”

Farrow said it feels as though an already marginalized community is being overlooked.

“It strikes me as, frankly, really upsetting that we’re in a situation where there’s a public health crisis that is currently situated within the LGBT community, and it will certainly spread outside of that,” he said. “Specifically here in Ohio, I think part of the issue is state politics. This is currently a virus that’s primarily impacting gay and bisexual men.”

The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) says it has received 4,253 doses of the two-dose monkeypox vaccine. The LGBT Center has been trying to help Clevelanders locate the vaccine, testing and antiviral treatments. It plans to offer its own vaccine clinic in the coming weeks.

“Unfortunately because of the abandonment, quite frankly, of the Ohio Department of Health and the Governor Mike DeWine, it has been left up to individuals and organizations to try to muster a response and respond to the community,” Farrow said.

He hopes the public health emergency declaration will build momentum for a thorough response.

In a statement to News 5 Thursday, ODH said:

“The Ohio Department of Health has been actively working with our local health departments and partners in the state to provide testing, case investigation, contact tracing and countermeasures when appropriate, to include the TPOXX antiviral medication and Jynneos vaccine, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations.”

A spokesperson added that the state expects to receive an additional 13,560 doses from the federal government over the next six weeks.

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