More than 1,000 monkeypox cases were reported Wednesday in California, where a state of emergency was declared in response to the growing case count.
State health officials describe the spread of monkeypox as a rapidly evolving situation. As of Wednesday, the nation’s most populous state reported 1,135 cases, including 400 in Los Angeles and 368 in San Francisco.
Here’s what to know about monkeypox in California, symptoms and best ways to prevent its spread.
Where are monkeypox cases being reported in California?
Hundreds of cases have been reported in early August in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Most of the recent cases this year have been among people identifying as men who have had sex with men, the state health department said.
California’s health department provides updates on monkeypox cases here.
How is monkeypox spread?
Monkeypox is considered a rare disease that causes an illness similar to small pox. It can spread from humans, animals and materials carrying the virus, but it is less transmissible and generally less seere than smallpox.
Monkeypox spread primarly through direct contact with infectious sores, scabs, or body fluids, including during sex, as well as activities like kissing, hugging, massaging, and cuddling, according to the California Department of Public Health. It also can spread by touching materials used by an infected person that have not been cleaned, like clothes and bedding, and through respiratory secretions during prolonged face-to-face contact, the agency said.
The virus is not spread through casual brief conversations and by walking by someone with monkeypox, like you would at a grocery store.
What are monkeypox symptoms?
It starts with something like the flu — fever, low energy, swollen lymph nodes, and general body aches. Within one to three days after those symptoms appear, a rash or sores can develop. The sores go through stages that include scabs before they heal. They look like pimples or blisters, and they might be painful and itchy.
The type of monkeypox virus identified in this outbreak are rarely fatal. People usually recover within weeks.
How can we prevent the spread of monkeypox?
Here’s a list of prevention tips from the California Department of Public Health.
- Always talking to your sexual partner/s about any recent illness and being aware of new or unexplained sores or rashes on your body or your partner’s body, including on the genitals and anus
- Avoiding close contact, including sex, with people with symptoms like sores or rashes
- Practicing good hand hygiene
- People who become infected should isolate until their symptoms are improving or have gone away completely. Rash should always be well covered until completely healed.
- Using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) (like a mask, gown, and gloves) when caring for others with symptoms
- Avoiding contact with infected materials contaminated with the virus
- Avoiding contact with infected animals
Who is eligible for the monkeypox vaccine in LA County?
In an effort to prevent its spread, LA County will be hosting several pop-up vaccination clinics.
In Los Angeles County, monkeypox vaccines are available to people confirmed by the Department of Public Health to have had high- or immediate-risk contact with a known monkeypox patient, and to people who attended an event or visited a venue where they was a high risk of exposure to a confirmed case. Those people are generally identified through county contact-tracing efforts, and they will be notified by the county.
Shots are also available for gay and bisexual men and transgender people with a diagnosis of rectal gonorrhea or early syphilis within the past year.
Also eligible for the shots are gay or bisexual men or transgender people who are on HIV pre-exposure prophylaxix, or PrEP, or who attended or worked at a commercial sex venue or other venue where they had anonymous sex or sex with multiple partners — such as at a sauna, bathhouse or sex club — in the past 21 days.
Eligibility was expanded Tuesday to include gay or bisexual men or transgender people aged 18 and older who have had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the past 14 days.
People who believe they fall into any of the criteria can contact their health care provider to see if that provider can administer the vaccine. Qualified people who do not have a health care provider — or whose provider does not carry the vaccine — can either make an appointment at a designated vaccine clinic or visit a walk-in location. Information is available here. A list of monkeypox vaccine locations is available here.
The county has also activated a website where residents can fill out an online form to see if they may be eligible for a shot and pre-register to be added to a waiting list. People who register at the site and are eligible for the vaccine will receive a text message when it is available, with information on where to get the shot.