In August, Humboldt County, Nevada reported a case of monkeypox, the first time the virus was detected in a rural area in the state. Cases were soon detected in other rural counties (Nye, Lyon, and Elko), another hurdle for a public health system weakened by the covid-19 pandemic.
Experts say the monkeypox virus in rural America could be affected by fragmented resources and heated politics left over from the pandemic, challenges that some fear could allow sporadic infections to gain a foothold.
“Your Embers Turn De Beaumont Foundation, a company focused on public health policy, said Brian Castrucci, president and CEO “The challenge is: Do we have the infrastructure in rural America to adequately deal with monkeypox, COVID-19, and whatever’s coming?
In Humboldt County, local officials responded positively to monkeypox reports soon after. The local health board issued a press release encouraging residents to be cautious about physical contact, outlining Symptoms to look for – painful or itchy rash, fever, headache, etc.
‘I don’t know’ doesn’t think it’s something we should be afraid of,” said Charles S. “It’s something that each of us can avoid by taking some relatively simple precautions,” Dr. Tringham said in the release.
said local health officials on “primary prevention.” That role includes educating the community about the virus, monitoring those who test positive, and connecting with local doctors.
Nevada state and local public health officials said the Humboldt County response, where nearly 18,000 people live, and similar efforts in other rural communities follow guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State and local health leaders meet monthly to discuss public health issues, most recently the monkeypox virus. They said they were confident in the local response.
Still, some residents in rural Nevada said they were confused about where to find a vaccine or whether it was available in their county.
Stevie Noyes, a resident of Winnemucca, the largest city in Humboldt County, who identifies as pansexual, says she doesn’t know where to get the monkeypox vaccine . In early September, she called a local retail pharmacy, where her family usually gets vaccinated, and was told the pharmacy didn’t have a monkeypox vaccine. The pharmacist doesn’t know where to find it in town.
Noyce, a 34-year-old hairdresser, said she was in no rush to worry about monkeypox because no other cases have been identified in the county. However, she said members of the local LGBTQ+ community would be vulnerable if the virus began to spread Will rely on each other, not local county or health officials.
County and health officials “have taken a lot” Noyes said, “from the heat in towns” on the politics of dealing with public health issues. “A lot of what I’m seeing is political influence, and it does limit what’s posted, and it does limit what steps are taken.”
Despite the vicious remarks Noyce witnessed, Sri Tringham, in his experience, is not politically difficult to deal with monkeypox, especially compared to covid.
CDC data show that non-Hispanic black and Hispanic men who have sex with other men are overrepresented in infections across the country. LGBTQ+ advocates say they are concerned that the government’s response has not affected their communities, even if they have been disproportionately affected.
In major cities like Las Vegas, officials are working with LGBTQ+ community centers to raise awareness and distribute educational materials and vaccines. But Humboldt County has no similar center, where 57% of voters oppose the 2020 ballot question that overturns a provision in the state constitution that prohibits same-sex marriage. Statewide, the ballot measure was approved by 62 percent of voters.
Noyes said she cares more about prejudice than the virus and worries that because the virus is linked to MSM, it could spark retaliation against LGBTQ+ people in Humboldt County. “There are a lot of these people, and the more you interact with them, the more emboldened they become, I mean, they end up being dangerous,” she said.
Some in Winnemucca are outspoken that they have monkeypox, a “gay virus,” she said and joked on Facebook.
In late September, Noyce helped host Winnemucca’s second annual Pride festival. Immunize Nevada, a nonprofit dedicated to delivering vaccines statewide, is there to provide information on covid-19 and monkeypox.
“We want to fight it this way,” Noyce said.
Tackling monkeypox in rural areas requires nuance, said Kristy Zigenis, program manager for the state’s immunization program. “If we’re going to open clinics in rural areas, not all of them are ready to share with the world that they’re engaged in this behavior,” Zignes said.
She added that public health officials met affected individuals in Clark County, home to Las Vegas, who were not prepared to share the names of their sexual partners during contact tracing, or Unable to identify their partner. “In terms of the number of cases, I think it might involve rural areas,” she said.
As of October 26, there have been 28,087 confirmed cases of monkeypox virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationally, Nevada has 298 cases, putting the state at the second-highest level of transmission. Most of the state’s cases are in Clark County, where more than two-thirds of the state’s residents live, but four rural counties have also reported cases.
Because it is unclear whether monkeypox has spread beyond the U.S. to a case detected in Humboldt County, Stringham said he is working to provide enough information to keep residents informed, but Not too much to cause burnout.
He said he thought the resources would be better geared towards covid prevention, adding that the situation could change.
To make things even more difficult, the community health nurse in charge of distributing vaccines from a state-run clinic in Winnemucca retired a few months ago, and her replacement is from Carson City One of the nurses didn’t arrive until October.
“We’re a little bit lacking in this,” Stringham said.
During the transition period, Humboldt County residents who are eligible for the monkeypox vaccine will need to see an administrative assistant at the Winnemucca Community Health Care Services office, where 100 doses of the Jynneos vaccine will be available, Zigenis said. The state agency will then send someone to Humboldt County to get the vaccine.
Experts say the disparity is emblematic of the variety of difficulties that rural community officials across the country face when dealing with public health issues.
“The challenge is that some people may not Seek primary care so cases don’t get processed,” Castrucci said. He added that focusing resources on Covid-19 or monkeypox could cause other health problems to disappear, especially given the lack of investment in local public health departments in rural America compared to departments in big cities.