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Monkeypox. Courtesy NHS England High Consequence Infectious Diseases Network via CDC.gov website

Riverside County reported 11 more confirmed or probable monkeypox cases Tuesday, raising the overall number to 70.

Jose Arballo, a spokesman for Riverside University Health System, said the new cases were all in men between 20 and 70 years old.

The total of 70 is more than double the number from last Monday, when Arballo reported the total probable/confirmed cases stood at 34. There were 13 probable/confirmed cases the previous Monday. Two cases that were originally reported in Riverside County have since been assigned to San Bernardino County.

Riverside County Public Health Officer Geoffrey Leung signed a public health emergency proclamation on Monday in an effort to focus attention on the virus, according to a statement from Riverside University Public Health. The county Board of Supervisors has seven days to ratify the proclamation.

“We have seen the devastating physical effects of monkeypox on those who have been infected, as well as the emotional toll on partners, family and loved ones,” Leung said in a statement. “Now is the time for Public Health, our community partners and local leadership to reinforce our commitment to work together to slow and eventually stop the spread of this virus.”

State and federal officials last week proclaimed emergencies in response to monkeypox.

Riverside County health officials have distributed 75% of an allotment of monkeypox vaccine doses to DAP Health, Eisenhower Medical Center, Borrego Health and RUHS’ EIP clinic in the Coachella Valley from the county’s limited supply, Arballo told City News Service.

He said the county received 3,514 vaccine doses of the two-dose-regimen JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine, enough for about 1,750 people, before the 75% were distributed into the Coachella Valley.

The other 25% were kept for RUHS Public Health efforts such as larger scale events and post-exposure prophylaxis, Arballo said.

“We continue to work on adding additional community partners to make our limited vaccine supply available more widely, as we also continue to advocate for more vaccine doses for our county,” Arballo said.

According to health officials, the vaccine can prevent infection if given before or shortly after exposure to the virus.

“By sharing the vaccine, which is in limited supply, we wanted to make it as easy as possible for patients to get the shot if they and their medical provider agree it is appropriate,” said Kim Saruwatari, director of public health for the county.

The county is also working with community partners to expand the eligibility for the two-shot vaccines to include at-risk individuals, and to set up treatment sites with Tecovirimat — an antiviral medication used to treat orthopoxvirus infections such as monkeypox.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health advise that the vaccine be prioritized for high-risk and exposed patients. Gay and bisexual men are at increased risk of contracting the virus, according to the CDC.

Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Desert, recently asked the state to allocate additional doses of monkeypox vaccines to the Coachella Valley, citing high-risk factors, including a disproportionately high immunocompromised population — largely due to an HIV-positivity rate that is more than twice as high as Los Angeles County.

“California’s vaccine distribution strategy continues to overlook the Palm Springs area,” Ruiz said.

“It is imperative that the CDC and the CDPC work quickly to make these and any other necessary adjustments to better meet the demand for vaccines and ensure the threat of monkeypox is mitigated in our communities,” Palm Springs Mayor Lisa Middleton said recently.

The World Health Organization has declared monkeypox a “public health emergency of international concern.”

Monkeypox is generally spread through intimate skin-to-skin contact, resulting from infectious rashes and scabs, though respiratory secretions and bodily fluids exchanged during extended physical episodes such as sexual intercourse can also lead to transmission, according to the CDC.

Symptoms include fresh pimples, blisters, rashes, fever and fatigue. There is no specific treatment. People who have been infected with smallpox, or have been vaccinated for it, may have immunity to monkeypox.

People with symptoms are urged to visit a medical provider, cover the rash area with clothing, wear a mask and avoid close or skin-to-skin contact with others.

The CDC particularly recommends those steps for people who recently traveled to an area where monkeypox cases have been reported or who have had contact with a confirmed or suspected monkeypox case.

A full list of countries that have confirmed monkeypox cases is available at wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/alert/monkeypox. A state-by-state tally of cases is available at www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/response/2022/us-map.html.

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