DENVER — Monkeypox continues to spread in Colorado, with at least 20 reported cases so far, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
"Originally, most of our cases were either associated with travel or could be linked to a known case of monkeypox," CDPHE epidemiologist Dr. Alexis Burakoff said Friday. "I think what's kind of changed is that we are starting to see indications of community transmission where we're finding cases where we aren't able to identify exactly where somebody may have gotten monkeypox."
As of Friday, CDPHE has vaccinated at least 800 Coloradans with one dose of the monkeypox vaccine, including Denver resident Benjamin Wetherbee.
"Being a gay man, it's one of those things where you really want to take care of yourself. And anytime you have the opportunity to do that, yeah, you gotta take it," he said.
He's thankful to live here, as he believes CDPHE has been proactive about getting the word out.
"I have friends that live in other states that, you know, they haven't heard one word about it. I think being here is a good place to be for that right now," Wetherbee said.
Anyone can get monkeypox, but concern about its spread among men who have sex with men is growing demand for the vaccine.
The online form for people to apply for an appointment for the limited supply of the vaccine is closed, at least for now. Dr. Burakoff says they're still trying to get to those on a waitlist while waiting for more supply from the federal government.
"We've vaccinated over 800 people at our state-led clinic so far. We have another clinic this weekend, where we look to vaccinate another 100 or more, and we're just gonna keep pushing it out to keep as many people protected as we can, based on the supply that we're getting allocated," she said.
Whether you get the vaccine, when more of it becomes available, is entirely up to you and your doctor. Right now, it's targeted primarily at men who have sex with men and those who have direct contact with someone who has monkeypox. It's not a contagion like COVID-19.
"Death rate with this is, hopefully, well under 1%. We're hoping many people have mild illness," Dr. Burakoff said.
Still, that isn't stopping people like Wetherbee, who is just thankful to have taken the first step to protecting himself.
"Being gay in America comes along with the fact in the knowledge that the government doesn't always have your back, and being in tune with your own health and your own body and doing what you can to stay protected is our responsibility," he said.
CDPHE says the online form will open again once more supply is allocated to the state. However, do not wait for it to reopen if you've come in contact with someone with monkeypox. Contact your doctor instead.
To learn more about monkeypox, including symptoms and testing locations, click here.