SACRAMENTO – In a teleconference with media outlets on July 29, California Department of Public Health Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón provided an update on the state’s efforts in response to the monkeypox outbreak in California.
“We continue to approach monkeypox with the utmost urgency to slow its spread in California, distributing scarce vaccine doses to impacted communities, providing prevention information and testing, and doing what we can to increase access to treatment,” said Dr. Aragón. “This virus has impacted more than 750 Californians to date, and we know that has been incredibly challenging for those individuals and families. We remain focused on doing what we can to reduce risk, increase awareness, and get additional access to vaccines and treatment.
“Our team is also committed to reducing stigma among the LGBTQ community, which has been singled out and treated unfairly because of this outbreak. No single individual or community is to blame for the spread of any virus. Monkeypox can affect anyone as it spreads by skin-to-skin contact, as well as from sharing items like clothing, bedding and towels.”
Last week, California public health leaders urged federal partners to make more vaccine doses available to the state as quickly as possible, citing the need for an additional 600,000 to 800,000 JYNNEOS vaccine doses. Yesterday, the federal government announced the distribution of additional doses nationwide. California is hopeful the federal government will deliver additional vaccine to meet the state’s request.
California Public Health continues to work with local health departments to preposition treatment and vaccine doses to ensure that they are available quickly to those most in need.
To date, the state has distributed more than 25,000 vaccine doses to local public health departments and mobile clinics and will make additional allocations in the coming days and weeks. The state allocates doses to local health departments based on a number of factors, including the number of reported monkeypox cases in an area and estimate of at-risk populations. Yesterday the federal government announced that an additional 72,000 JYNNEOS vaccine doses have been allocated to California, plus another 48,000 for Los Angeles County.
California Public Health is also expanding treatment options for those who have contracted the virus. Like the vaccine, access to the antiviral prescription drug tecovirimat (TPOXX) used to treat monkeypox is limited, but the treatment can now be administered at more than 30 facilities and providers across the state. Individuals seeking treatment should contact their health care provider or local clinic.
On the testing front, California Public Health is using its Viral and Rickettsial Disease Laboratory in Richmond as a reference lab to expand knowledge and share best practices with other labs bringing monkeypox testing services online.
As of July 28, the state had expanded its testing capacity to process more than 1,000 tests a week. The state’s public health laboratory leaders have been working with local public health, academic, and commercial laboratories to ensure testing capacity is increasingly available and coordinated with the public health response.
The state continues outreach and education efforts to inform Californians and impacted communities, about monkeypox and ways to limit its spread. The state has hosted multiple webinars for local health departments, community-based organizations, and other health care providers over the last six weeks and has attended various own halls and community meetings to speak with and hear from the public and local leaders. California Public Health is also scheduling listening sessions with the LGBTQ community.
California Public Health is currently running paid ad campaigns on various digital media platforms to promote awareness and engage communities at higher risk of contracting monkeypox.
As of July 28, 786 probable and confirmed cases of monkeypox have been reported in the state. There is still a low risk to the public, but anyone can get the virus because it spreads through close physical contact, including hugging, cuddling and kissing, as well as sharing bedding, towels and clothing.
People with monkeypox may first develop flu-like illness with fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion and enlarged lymph nodes. A characteristic rash, which can appear like blisters or pimples throughout the body, may occur a few days later. These blisters or pimples may be very painful and in rare instances require hospitalization for pain management. People with monkeypox may experience all or only a few of these symptoms. The illness may last for up to 2 to 4 weeks and usually resolves without specific treatment.
California Public Health maintains a monkeypox homepage, including a fact sheet, and communications toolkit for the public, community organizations and health care providers.