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Monkeypox shows signs of peaking in San Diego

San Diego County hit 290 total monkeypox cases Thursday as the region showed signs that the current outbreak may have peaked.

A total of 56 new confirmed and suspected cases were identified in the first week of August, according to the county’s most- recent in-depth weekly update, falling to 49 in the second week of August and, preliminarily, 44 in the week ending Aug. 20.

The amount of virus detected in local wastewater as measured by SEARCH, a collaboration of local research labs led by UC San Diego and Scripps Research, has also fallen in recent updates, though the amount of virus detected in samples has been very low.

Because the virus may incubate inside an infected person’s body for up to 21 days, it’s very possible that additional cases with symptoms starting in the last two weeks of August will still appear in September, the overall trend appears to be falling said Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health director.

“It appears that we have seen the peak, but we still have new cases that are reported every day,” Wooten said. “And that really is quite similar to what we’ve seen nationwide.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and prevention, the largest single-day total was 870 on Aug. 22.

San Diego State University confirmed Thursday in a notice sent to all students, faculty and staff that a student living off campus tested positive for monkeypox, though a specific date when symptoms started to appear was not released.

An unspecified number of close contacts were said to have been contacted and interviewed through the contact-tracing process which uses interviews with infected individuals to determine who else might have been exposed.

Simply living in the same location or sharing the same classroom is very unlikely to transmit the virus, as very close — generally skin-to-skin — contact is required for infections to spread.

The county has provided demographic data on 270 of the 290 cases detected so far. About two thirds of those for whom information was available self identified as gay, lesbian or same-gender-loving with information unavailable for 58 and 13 saying they identify as heterosexual or straight.

While the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that the current outbreak has generally spread through sexual contact, it is possible for infections to occur after contact with materials that were in prolonged contact with the skin of someone who is infected. Spread through the air is also technically possible if a person has sores in their mouth.

Wooten said that case investigations have continued to show that the majority of local monkeypox cases have involved intimate contact but added that she was unsure whether any spread through other means.

To date, nearly 6,000 doses of monkeypox vaccine have been administered across San Diego County. Eight people who have tested positive have been hospitalized and none have died.

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