Redwood City, CA - As the summer season begins with increased travel and major events and gatherings, Bay Area Health Officers urge people to protect themselves against the monkeypox virus, which spreads through prolonged skin-to-skin contact and bodily fluids, such as through crowded settings or sexual contact.
The alert from nine health jurisdictions comes as cases – which appear in individuals as distinctive rashes and sores that can look like blisters or pimples – continue to emerge in the Bay Area, the nation and the globe. Monkeypox is not new, but this is the first time the virus has spread in so many countries at once.
Most cases of monkeypox resolve on their own, though they can be serious. The illness often begins with flu-like symptoms before the emergence of a rash and may last for 2 to 4 weeks. A post-exposure vaccination is available through health care providers.
Unlike COVID-19 which spreads easily through the air, the risk of monkeypox to the general public is currently low unless they engage in higher-risk behaviors. Having sex with multiple sex partners can increase a person’s risk of becoming infected when monkeypox is spreading in the community. Be aware of crowded, indoor spaces where people have close skin-to-skin contact, sex, kissing, and close breathing. The virus can also be spread through shared clothing or bedding.
“Even with the low public risk of monkeypox, it’s important to be aware of the signs of infection,” said Dr. Scott Morrow, San Mateo County Health Officer. “Anyone experiencing symptoms should stay home and contact their health care provider right away.”
Many of the cases currently appearing are within networks of self-identified gay and bisexual men, trans people, and men who have sex with men. People in these networks are currently at higher risk, though people of any sexual orientation or gender identity can become infected and spread monkeypox. Public awareness is important as the disease could spread within potentially larger groups or networks of people.
Bay Area health officials urge the media, government officials, and the community at-large to avoid stigmatizing a particular group or person for monkeypox but rather to support those at highest risk and keep others from becoming complacent.
There are other contagious illnesses that can cause rash or skin lesions. For example, syphilis and herpes are much more common than monkeypox, can appear similar, and should be treated too.
How to protect yourself:
• Consider covering exposed skin in dense, indoor crowds
• Don’t share bedding, clothing with others
• Talk to close physical contacts about their general health like recent rashes or sores
• Stay aware if traveling to countries where there are outbreaks
How to protect others:
If you have symptoms particularly a rash consistent with monkeypox, or if you have been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with monkeypox:
• Stay home if you are feeling sick
• Contact a health care provider as soon as possible for an evaluation
• Avoid skin-to-skin, or close contact with others, including sexual contact, until a medical evaluation has been completed
• Inform sex partners about any symptoms you are experiencing
• Cover the rash with clean, dry, loose-fitting clothing
• Wear a well-fitted mask
• If you are contacted by public health officials, answer their confidential questions to help protect others who may have been exposed
As of today, there are no reported cases of monkeypox in San Mateo County. If you are experiencing symptoms consistent with monkeypox, please contact your health care provider or be evaluated at the nearest emergency department.
More information about monkeypox can be found here:
• Q&A from the California Department of Public Health: cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Monkeypox-Questions-and-Answers.aspx
• Information on monkeypox from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC): cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/response/2022/index.html
• Social gatherings and safer sex from the CDC: cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/specific-settings/social-gatherings.html
• San Mateo County Health’s alert to local clinicians and health care providers: https://bit.ly/3zHW9jJ
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Communications Officer, San Mateo County Health