With more than 400 cases of monkeypox now reported in LA County (numbers have doubled in the last 10 days and now represent about 50% of the likely 800 reported in the state of California so far, and 10% of the 4,000 nationwide), both California Governor Gavin Newsom and LA County Board of Supervisors Chair Holly J. Mitchell have declared states of emergency relating to the virus in their respective jurisdictions.
As Mitchell said in a statement accompanying her proclamation yesterday, the move is intended to help the County “get ahead of this virus. By declaring a local emergency, it allows us to cut through the red tape to better dedicate resources and educate residents on how to protect themselves and help stop the spread. It will also allow the County to quickly administer vaccines as more become available and to take the necessary efforts to obtain supplies and enhance outreach and awareness.”
The proclamation itself notes that the JYNNEOS vaccine being given to those most at risk remains limited, with LA County “only receiving 24,042 doses…of which 14,215 have been administered.”
Some good news, though is that just today, less than 24 hours after Mitchell’s proclamation, the LA County Department of Public Health announced it has received additional doses of monkeypox vaccine, and is now expanding vaccination eligibility to “additional residents at high risk of exposure to monkeypox,” as well as launching a pop-up vaccination location in West Hollywood.
According to the announcement, “Monkeypox vaccine is now also available to gay or bisexual men and transgender persons 18 years of age and older who “had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the last 14 days including engaging in survival and/or transactional sex (e.g., sex in exchange for shelter, food and other goods and needs),” as well as “residents who are immunocompromised, including those with advanced or uncontrolled HIV, [and] may be at high risk for severe disease.”
Residents who met the prior eligibility criteria (gay or bisexual men or a transgender individuals “who were diagnosed with gonorrhea or early syphilis in the past 12 months, are on HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), or had anonymous sex or sex with multiple partners within the past 21 days in a commercial sex venue or other venue”) are also still eligible for vaccinations. People who meet any of the above criteria can register here to receive the vaccine.
According to the CDC, monkeypox symptoms can include:
- Muscle aches and backache
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)
- A rash that may be located on or near the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) but could also be on other areas like the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth.
- The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing.
- The rash can look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy.
According to an Associated Press report, “The monkeypox virus spreads through prolonged and close skin-to-skin contact, which can include hugging, cuddling and kissing, as well as through the sharing of bedding, towels and clothing.”
As has been widely reported, the AP story also notes that “People getting sick so far have mainly been men who have sex with men, though health officials note that the virus can infect anyone.” It also quotes Michelle Gibbons, executive director of the County Health Executives Association of California, who cautioned against stigmatizing Monkeypox as a “gay” disease.
“Public health officials are clear: stigma is unacceptable and counterproductive in public health response,” said Gibbons. “The fact is that monkeypox is primarily spread by skin to skin contact and sharing objects like bedding or towels, without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Finally, it’s also important to know, said the AP story, “The type of monkeypox virus identified in this outbreak is rarely fatal, and people usually recover within weeks. But the lesions and blisters caused by the virus are painful, and they can prevent swallowing or bowel movements if in the throat or anus.”
Prior to yesterday’s announcement by LA County, San Francisco declared a similar state of emergency last Thursday, as did the state of Illinois, and both New York state and New York City.
About Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.
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