NYC monkeypox cases double again; vaccine website crashes

The number of likely monkeypox cases in New York City has once again doubled in a week. And the demand for the monkeypox vaccine is far outpacing the supply, causing frustration for many New Yorkers who say they can't get an appointment to get a shot. 

As of Tuesday, July 12, 267 people in the city have tested positive for orthopoxvirus (see below) and all likely have monkeypox, according to the city's Health Department. That is up from 111 cases on July 5 and more than quadruple the number from a week prior to that. 

"There are likely more cases that have not been diagnosed," the Health Department said on its website. "Most of these people have not been hospitalized and have recovered on their own."

The current outbreak is among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, the Health Department said, but anyone can get and spread monkeypox. 

Health officials with the city and the state said they are looking to work with organizations, representatives, and advocates from LGBTQ community to share resources, answer questions, and get feedback. 

Dr. Mary Bassett, the state's health commissioner, and Dr. Ashwin Vasan, the city's health commissioner, hosted a joint virtual town hall on Monday evening to update the public on the "evolving monkeypox outbreak."

Monkeypox Symptoms

Monkeypox begins as a rash or sores that can look like pimples or blisters. These bumps can appear all over the body — including your face, hands, feet, mouth, genitals or anus — and can become infected.

The symptoms usually start between a week to two weeks after exposure but may not appear for up to 21 days. The sickness can last from two to four weeks with flu-like symptoms including fever, chills, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, headache, and body aches and pains — like a weaker version of smallpox. 

"If you have a new or unexpected rash or other symptoms of monkeypox, contact a health care provider," the Health Department states. "A person is contagious until all sores have healed, and a new layer of skin has formed, which can take two to four weeks."

Monkeypox Vaccination

Vaccination involves getting two doses of the Jynneos vaccine, which the FDA has approved to prevent "smallpox and monkeypox disease in adults 18 years of age and older determined to be at high risk," the agency states. The doses are administered four weeks apart.

Demand for the vaccine has been high and supply has been low, which prompted New York City to request more shots from the federal government last week.

Appointments filled up very quickly when the Health Department opened more slots on Tuesday. Many people reported getting error messages when they tried to book an appointment online, the Health Department said.

"This is just further proof that demand is very high, and we will continue working to make vaccine available," DOH said in a statement. "We apologize for the frustration caused and are working to build stable appointment infrastructure as we roll out more appointments as vaccine supply increases in the coming weeks. We look forward to receiving more doses in the near future to provide to New Yorkers."

What Is Orthopoxvirus?

Public laboratories in New York state test patient samples for orthopoxvirus, the genus, or group, of viruses that cause monkeypox, smallpox, and other diseases. 

"Cases that are confirmed positive for orthopoxvirus are considered probable monkeypox cases because of the rarity of all orthopoxviruses, generally, and the presentation of symptoms, in confirmed orthopoxvirus cases, being consistent with monkeypox," the New York State Health Department states on its website. "Confirmed orthopoxvirus cases, or probable monkeypox cases, may be further confirmed as monkeypox through CDC testing."