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46 confirmed cases of monkeypox in O.C. as Newsom declares state of emergency

County Supervisor Katrina Foley speaks with officials from the Orange County Health Care Agency.
County Supervisor Katrina Foley, upper right, speaks during an online public forum about COVID-19 and monkeypox with officials from the Orange County Health Care Agency.
(Daily Pilot)

The Orange County Health Care Agency Tuesday reported at least 46 probable or confirmed cases of monkeypox in Orange County, one week after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a state of emergency over recent outbreaks statewide.

County healthcare officials announced the first presumed case in late June. Last week 15 cases were tentatively diagnosed and this week another 11 probable cases have been identified.

The Centers for Disease Control said monkeypox, a virus that is rarely fatal, has symptoms similar to but milder than smallpox. The illness can be spread from infected people, animals and items such as sheets that have been in close contact with those who have the virus.

In a virtual public health update held Tuesday by Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley, agency director Dr. Clayton Chau pointed out monkeypox is not a new virus and first identified in 1958.

“There have been several instances in history for the last seven decades that we have had outbreaks here and there, but this time is truly a big worldwide outbreak. In a very short time, we are up to [30,000] cases worldwide,” said Chau, noting that residents could get updates from both the CDC and California’s own public health department.

As of Tuesday afternoon the CDC reported 9,492 cases in the U.S., of which 1,310 were in California.

Most of the state’s cases are in Los Angeles and San Francisco counties, but communicable disease control division medical director Dr. Matthew Zahn said numbers are climbing in Orange County.

Zahn noted that all cases identified in the county so far have been in men who have sex with other men but that nationally other populations have been affected as well. No pediatric cases have been identified in the Orange County.

Officials confirmed that treatments for the condition exist and that vaccines are being distributed to those with elevated risks of infection. The vaccine — Jynneos — is one of two licensed in the United States to prevent smallpox and requires two injections, four weeks apart. Those who receive the second dose are not considered vaccinated until two weeks after the fact.

The healthcare agency said supplies of the vaccine are limited.

“As vaccines are coming into our agency, it is moving out very quickly. We have kept less than 100 doses here so that if we identify people who are at really high risk ... we can make sure they get vaccinated,” said Zahn. “Otherwise, we are distributing it through our community partners and through Othena.

“We are offering a limited number of slots.”

Zahn said the agency is currently prioritizing gay or bisexual men who meet at least one of a number of possible criteria listed at ochealthinfo.com/monkeypox/vaccine.

“Casual contact poses virtually no risk,” said Zahn, adding that the disease is unlike chickenpox. “So the worry that I’m going to run into somebody at the grocery store who has monkeypox or I’m going to give somebody a hug, that’s really, really low risk.”

For more information, visit ochealthinfo.com/monkeypox.

Zahn said Tuesday that the case count data for probable and confirmed cases is updated daily Monday through Friday.

“We continue to work with our community partners to educate those at risk, but do not plan any mandates or decrees,” said Zahn.

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