SAN FRANCISCO - As fears over the COVID pandemic begin to fade, the fear of another communicable disease is growing with the spread of monkeypox.
Health care workers are combating this disease with the benefit of lessons learned from the past. Health care experts are hoping that we have learned from history, both recent and from last century, on how to address this latest public health threat. As the COVID pandemic eases, monkeypox is coming into sharper focus.
Infectious disease specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong said the fact that monkeypox is seldom deadly and with vaccines already developed, it is a disease that needs to be addressed, not feared.
"I think that monkeypox…we should be wary of it, but that we shouldn't be fearful of it, not be alarmed by it and not lose sleep over it," said Dr. Chin-Hong.
Although most of the current cases of the disease have been gay men, medical experts are saying that's just happenstance. Previous outbreaks have spread in different communities.
"If you look at the arc of monkeypox outbreaks historically; actually men and women are at equal opportunity," said Dr. Chin-Hong. "It's just that this particular outbreak seems to be predominantly in men who have sex with men. But the last outbreak we had in the U.S. was in pet owners."
San Francisco's Department of Public Health said they have tracked 16 cases of monkeypox so far, and are rolling out plans to combat the disease. San Francisco has already received 360 vaccine doses, with another 200 expected this week.
"We know now the importance of circumventing this before it gets wider," said Frank Strona from SF Department of Public Health. "So, we've reached out to all of our patients, we've made sure that them, and their contacts are being treated or reached out to for conversations."
The San Francisco AIDS Foundation is also mobilizing, recalling how gay men were stigmatized during the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s. The foundation is raising concerns about testing and vaccinations to address the current monkeypox outbreak.
"We're taking every chance we can to ensure that the population that we serve through San Francisco AIDS Foundation is aware and that we're advocating for enough vaccine so that all those who think they are at risk will have access," said Tyler TerMeer from the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
San Francisco officials said they are working with the state to source and distribute vaccine as it becomes available. They're urging anyone who suspects they may have been exposed to monkeypox to contact their doctor.