Health department encourages Houstonians to celebrate safely
HOUSTON – The Houston Health Department encourages people to enjoy Pride Houston events and gatherings safely, including gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men due to their higher risk of mpox, formerly known as monkeypox.
Staff with the department will offer free mpox vaccines and health education across Houston during June for Pride month.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in mid-May issued an alert warning of a possible mpox resurgence this summer as people gather for events and festivals.
Cases of mpox have fallen dramatically from last summer’s peak but the outbreak is not over.
Currently, the department reports about two mpox cases a month. It has reported 727 Houston cases since the outbreak began in 2022. The CDC has reports of more than 30,000 cases nationwide.
Outreach events where the department will use its mobile vaccination unit to provide mpox vaccines and health education include:
- Protect the H Night, 2111 Fannin St., Thursdays, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m., until July 13,
- Community Pride Bash, The Montrose Center, 401 Branard St., Saturday, June 17, 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.
- Rock The Runway 2023 Fashion Show, RISE Rooftop, 2600 Travis St., Thursday, June 22, 7 p.m. – 11 p.m. (Education only)
- Council Member Abbie Kamin’s Second Annual Families with Pride, Levy Park, 3801 Eastside St., Saturday, June 24, 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
- Civic Heart (formerly Change Happens), McGregor Park, 5225 Calhoun Rd., Tuesday, June 27, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The department will add other mpox mobile clinics to the events calendar later this month.
People need two doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine for the best protection against mpox. The regimen calls for people to get the second dose four weeks after the first one.
Mpox is a rare disease caused by a virus in the same family of viruses as smallpox. People with mpox often get a rash on their hands, feet, chest, face, mouth or genital area. The rash can initially look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy.
The incubation period is about three weeks. During this time, a person does not have symptoms and may feel fine. The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing.
Other symptoms include flu-like illness such as fever, headache, muscle aches, backache, chills, exhaustion and swollen lymph nodes. It spreads from person to person through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact and sexual contact.
Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men and transgender people make up most of the cases in the current mpox outbreak. However, anyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, who has been in close, personal contact with someone who has mpox is at risk.
People needing more information about mpox shots, Pride event mobile vaccination clinics, prevention tips and resources can visit HoustonHealth.org or call the department’s call center at 832-393-4220.