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Six suspected monkeypox cases in Sonoma County, as WHO declares global health emergency

The Press Democrat - 7/25/2022

Jul. 25—Sonoma County health officials announced Monday that three more suspected cases of monkeypox have been detected locally, bringing the total number of confirmed and suspected cases to six.

Two weeks ago, local health officials said three cases had been detected. Local health officials said public health staff are using contact tracing and outreach efforts used during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the current number of monkeypox cases remains low.

"We'll be following the cases and our surveillance data," said Dr. Sundari Mase, the county's health officer. "At this point, with six cases, I think just the preventive approach of identifying those at high risk is the best way to respond to this at this point."

As with the first three cases reported on July 11, the latest three cases involve men who have sex with men, said Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Kismet Baldwin. But Baldwin stressed that anyone can contract the virus.

"I don't want any group to be stigmatized or singled out or make it sound like it's one particular population's problem and nobody else," Baldwin said, adding that there have been recent cases in the United States where a child or woman has been infected.

News of three new cases in Sonoma County comes just two days after the World Health Organization declared the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.

Dr. George Rutherford, an infectious disease expert at UCSF, said such declaration, which came out of the International Health Regulations convention following the first SARS outbreak in the early 2000s, "basically kicks it all up a notch."

But Rutherford offered reassurance to those who may fear another pandemic is steamrolling toward us. He said that while the current monkeypox outbreak meets the pandemic requirement that it is present on all inhabited continents, it isn't nearly as transmissible as SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 illness.

"Just because it meets the definition, doesn't mean it's going to come get you, frankly," he said. "Monkeypox is relatively difficult to transmit, you have to have direct skin-to-skin-contact ... with these very obvious blisters."

Rutherford called monkeypox "a controllable disease," given that there are effective vaccines and medical treatments that can be used against it. "I would fully expect us to control it," he said. "We just need more vaccine."

Baldwin, the deputy health officer, said the county has received 768 doses of the JYNNEOS monkeypox vaccine from federal health officials, via the California Department of Public Health. County health staff began distributing those doses to community clinics, health care systems and medical groups so they can use it directly, she said.

"I think the next allocation we'll be able to let (the state) know how much goes to those different providers and they can it get shipped directly to them, so we don't have to literally deliver it," Baldwin said.

Steve Buck, a spokesman for Providence Sonoma County, which runs Santa Rosa Memorial, Petaluma Valley and Healdsburg hospitals, said it was given 20 doses of the monkeypox vaccine for Memorial Hospital. Providence, which also runs Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa, has not yet received any vaccine from Napa County health officials, Buck said.

Kaiser Permanente officials said Monday they hope vaccine supply improves over the next few weeks so they can "operationalize broader vaccination efforts."

Kaiser said any of its members experiencing monkeypox symptoms or who believes they may have been exposed should contact their Kaiser doctor immediately and ask to be tested.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or On Twitter @pressreno.\\


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