SANTA ROSA, Calif. - Health officials in Sonoma County are sounding the alarm to the community about the ongoing monkeypox outbreak.
On Friday, Sonoma County Department of Public Health in a letter said there are 17 confirmed cases of the infectious disease and that the increase in numbers from last week suggests an "accelerating spread."
The federal government declared monkeypox a public health emergency on Thursday, following a similar declaration for the state of California by Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this week.
County health officials say the declarations will help obtain critical resources to combat the viruses spread, including the vaccine, which has been in notoriously short supply despite high demand.
Health officials are quick to point out despite the increase in monkeypox cases that the disease poses a low risk to the majority of residents in Sonoma County. They remind that anyone can get monkeypox, although documented cases have disproportionately impacted men who have sex with men, particularly within Latino populations.
"Public health officials at all levels are working to distribute the Jynneos vaccine to limit the spread from infectious individuals to others. Unfortunately, manufacturers have not produced vaccine supplies sufficient to meet the demand," the health officials letter read.
The Jynneos vaccine requires two doses about one month apart. In San Francisco, the health department has decided to forgo the second dose until as many first doses are administered to partially inoculate as many people as they can while there is a public health emergency.
In Sonoma County the vaccine is being supplied to the most at-risk populations; including those who have been exposed to someone with monkeypox or have a higher risk of being exposed to the virus.
Sonoma County health officials said they've received 820 doses of the vaccine to date.
Health officials advise preventative measures in order to reduce risk for transmission amongst at-risk populations. That includes; limiting their number of intimate, skin-to-skin contacts, reconsidering the risks of intimate contact with a new partner, and exchanging contact details with any new partners to allow follow up if needed for the time being.
These are suggested preventative measures until more vaccine becomes available.
"While men who have sex with men currently face the greatest risk, a person’s sexuality and sexual orientation is not the route of transmission," the letter read.
How to protect yourself from monkeypox:
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has symptoms
- Avoid sharing bedding, towels or clothing with others who have symptoms
- Before having close, physical contact with others, talk to your partners about their health and any recent rashes or sores
- Consider limiting the number of intimate skin-to-skin encounters or events with large numbers of people where close skin to skin contact can occur
- Stay aware if traveling to countries where there are outbreaks
How to protect others:
If you have symptoms particularly a rash consistent with monkeypox, or if you have been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with monkeypox:
- Stay home if you are feeling sick
- Contact a health care provider as soon as possible for an evaluation
- Avoid skin-to-skin, or close contact with others, including sexual contact, until a medical evaluation has been completed
- To the best of your ability, know how to contact your intimate partners so they can receive post exposure prophylaxis
- Inform sex partners about any symptoms you are experiencing
- Cover the rash with clean, dry, loose-fitting clothing
- Wear a well-fitted mask
- If you are contacted by public health officials, answer their confidential questions to help protect others who may have been exposedHow to get help:If you do not have a provider, or have difficulty scheduling an appointment, you can be seen at a community clinic in Sonoma County.More information about monkeypox can be found here:● Sonoma County Disease Control● Q&A from CDPH● Information on monkeypox from the CDC● Social gatherings and safer sex from the CDC