Monkeypox, which has caused alarms in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City, is now a concern in Las Vegas.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Monday that wastewater testing in southern Nevada had found the presence of the virus.
That suggests there are more infections than have been reported, according to Edwin Oh, a researcher and assistant professor with the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
To date, Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, has reported 23 cases of monkeypox, the Review-Journal reported.
Oh called the level detected “relatively low.” He said monkeypox was detected in wastewater from the Vegas Strip and one wastewater treatment plant.
Wastewater surveillance was performed in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to detect the presence of the virus in a community.
“Using this system, we should be able to better define whether the amount of monkeypox virus in our communities is increasing (or decreasing) over time,” Oh said in an email.
“We can’t say that our findings translate to an exact number of infected people yet,” the UNLV researcher said. “However, the fact that we can detect the signal from wastewater suggests that more people in Southern Nevada may be infected than the current (reported) number.”
Oh said the prevalence of the disease in California made Las Vegas a logical place for it to spread.
“We have been looking hard since we are so close to California and we suspected that Las Vegas would be a place where transmission would take place,” he said.
Jynneos vaccine is being distributed to protect people who have been exposed to monkeypox but have no symptoms. However, the flow of the vaccine has been slower than the demand for it.
“Due to limited supplies, we are not able to provide vaccine to all individuals who are seeking vaccine at this time and we are awaiting additional doses,” Southern Nevada Health District representative Stephanie Bethel said, according to the Review-Journal.
More than 5,200 monkeypox cases have been reported in the U.S. The disease causes painful skin lesions and is spread through skin-to-skin contact.
In the United States and Europe, the vast majority of victims have connections to the gay community.
“Some cases have been identified through sexual health clinics in communities of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men,” the World Health Organization said in a May news release. “It is important to note that the risk of monkeypox is not limited to men who have sex with men.”
Although monkeypox is usually not fatal, four deaths outside of Africa have been reported since Friday.
On Monday, New York City declared a state of emergency over the disease, a step taken by San Francisco last week. New York leads the nation as it approaches 1,500 monkeypox cases, according to Politico.
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