Dr. Wilma Wooten discusses local monkeypox cases as Supervisor Nathan Fletcher looks on. Photo by Chris Jennewein
San Diego County declared a local public health emergency over monkeypox on Tuesday, but counseled residents that the situation is “fundamentally different” than with coronavirus.
The move follows Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proclamation of a state of emergency on Monday to bolster California’s vaccination efforts to control the outbreak.
“The situation we face with monkeypox is fundamentally very different,” said Supervisor Nathan Fletcher at a press briefing. “It is exponentially less transmissible. We also have a vaccine.”
The first case in San Diego County was reported on June 15. Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten said that so far there have been 46 total cases, all among men, but only one hospitalization and no deaths.
Most of those who have contracted monkeypox are members of the LGBTQ community, but health officials say anyone can get it, and criticized any stigmatization of that community.
Fletcher said the biggest challenge is securing the vaccine for what was previously a rare disease. He said the county has received 3,987 vaccine doses and 2,454 have been administered.
“We will continue to advocate and push for more vaccines,” Fletcher said.
Two vaccination events have already taken place, where more than 1,400 doses administered over four days. The county has also made doses of vaccine available to local healthcare providers, as well as provided the drug Tecovirimat, which can successfully treat monkeypox.
Deputy Public Health Officer Ankita Kadakia said an estimated 66,000 individuals are considered at high risk in the county.
Officials stressed that the high incidence in the LGBTQ community was unexpected because the disease affects all demographics in West Africa, where it has been common.
Mayor Todd Gloria urged San Diegans — especially those in the LGBTQ community — to take the virus seriously and follow precautions.
“A little bit of education will go a long way toward stopping the spread,” he said.
Monkeypox is a viral infection related to smallpox that can spread through contact with body fluids, sores on the body of someone who has monkeypox, or from shared items such as clothing and bedding.
It begins with a fever and a rash usually develops within one to three days. Most people who become infected with monkeypox have a mild illness.
San Diego County residents can receive real-time information about monkeypox by texting COSD MONKEYPOX to 468-311.
Updated at 7:10 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022