Los Angeles County officials have reported limited local monkeypox transmission, with some recent cases involving people attending major events here and people being infected. who have not traveled out of state.
“There’s been something we call ‘community transmission.’ That is, it’s not from travelers or people who went elsewhere and got monkey pox somewhere else. It’s basically that they have monkey pox here in LA County, because it was transferred from someone else here in LA County who had monkey pox,” Barbara Ferrer, director of public health, said at this week’s Board of Trustees meeting.
In all, there were 30 suspected or confirmed cases of monkey pox in LA County as of Thursday. No one in the county had been hospitalized or died from the disease until last week.
Meanwhile, the geographic impact of the monkeypox outbreak continues to grow.
Orange County reported its first suspected case on Wednesday. Public health officials in Riverside and Santa Clara counties did the same last week.
Here’s what you need to know about the disease and its spread:
Where does monkey pox spread in LA County?
“The majority of people diagnosed with monkey pox here in LA County are people who attended two very large parties,” Ferrer said this week. “So we did a lot of very specific outreach to those attending these events.”
In humans, monkeypox can be transmitted through prolonged skin-to-skin contact with someone who has an active rash. In some cases in the current outbreak, during the early stages of the disease, the rash has been found in the genital area and in or around the anus.
Health officials have noted that some recent cases have occurred in men who have sex with men.
But officials have stressed that anyone can get or transmit monkeypox, including family and friends who care for the sick. The virus can also be transmitted through shared bedding and clothing. It is also possible that it is spread by kissing and breathing at very close range.
The primary mode of transmission is through virus-filled lesions on the skin, which can be filled with infectious pus. It is plausible that a person can be contagious without lesions on the skin, for example if there is a lesion in the throat or mouth, and they can exhale the virus in humans.
Monkeypox is not nearly as contagious as the coronavirus and measles, which can linger in still air in a room for more than an hour.
What can you do if you’ve been exposed to monkey pox?
Ferrer said LA County health officials are arranging opportunities for people exposed to the monkeypox virus to get vaccinated against the disease in hopes of preventing infection.
The stock of monkeypox vaccines is limited. County health officials are offering the Jynneos vaccine to reach people at higher risk.
What are the authorities doing to increase access to the vaccine?
The Biden administration said on Tuesday that federal officials are aiming to expand vaccination for at-risk individuals and make testing easier for health care providers and patients across the country.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services has already deployed more than 9,000 doses of vaccine; the government said Tuesday it will assign “296,000 doses in the coming weeks, of which 56,000 will be assigned immediately.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week “started shipping tests to five commercial lab companies, including some of the nation’s largest reference labs, to further increase testing capacity and access to monkeypox,” the government said.
What does the monkeypox rash look like in the current outbreak?
A freelance video producer and editor, Matt Ford, wrote a story published on BuzzFeed outlining his monkey pox exposure and infection, and included photos of the rash. He said a friend tested positive for monkey pox and contacted him on June 17 to let him know he may have been exposed through skin-to-skin contact.
“Yeah sure, I checked myself for stains and noticed a few lesions in the underwear zone,” Ford wrote. “The next day I developed severe flu-like symptoms: fever, chills, night sweats, cough, sore throat and swollen lymph nodes. This would take about a week.”
Ford wrote that he went to the doctor on June 20, was tested, and the results were sent to the LA County Department of Public Health. The lesions “in the underwear zone became more intense and quite painful.” The lesions spread to the face and elsewhere on his body and became so painful that he was prescribed painkillers.