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The Sonoma County Department of Health Services sent the following letter to the community today regarding monkeypox:

We are facing a public health emergency. On August 1, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency to combat the monkey’s spread. Three days later, the administration of President Joe Biden declared a public health emergency at the federal level as well. Emergency declarations will help us get the critical resources needed to fight the spread of this virus. While this outbreak is very different from the coronavirus pandemic, we have learned many lessons over the past two years to help combat the spread of infectious diseases.

So far, we have heard of 17 confirmed cases of monkeypox among Sonoma County residents. This is an increase from last week’s regional numbers and suggests an acceleration of expansion. Despite this jump, monkeys remain a low risk to most Sonoma County residents.

Although it is a viral infection, monkeypox does not behave or transmit like COVID-19. Monkeypox is more contagious than COVID-19 and is largely spread through intimate contact between an infected person and another person, including kissing, hugging and sexual activity.

We want to emphasize that monkeys can affect anyone. Today, the vast majority of cases are in the social network of self-identified men who have sex with men, and they need the most help.

Public health officials at all levels are working to distribute the Jynneos vaccine to limit the spread of infectious individuals to others. Unfortunately, manufacturers have not produced enough vaccine supplies to meet demand.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the California Department of Public Health and the Sonoma County Department of Health Services are distributing existing supplies and prioritizing distribution to those who have been exposed to someone with the monkey or are at increased risk of contracting the virus. Again, most people in the general population are at low risk of exposure and infection.

So far, Sonoma County has received 820 doses of the vaccine. Doses have been distributed to all major health systems and Federally Qualified Health Centers and Santa Rosa Junior College, the Sonoma County Indian Health Services Program and the Lazy Bear event in Guerneville. Since the vaccine supplies are not enough to meet the needs of the County, we must also focus on preventing and reducing the risk of contracting and transmitting the virus. Combining prevention, vaccination and treatment will give us the best chance of slowing down the spread of the disease.

In line with World Health Organization guidelines, we advise people at highest risk to limit their intimate contact, skin-to-skin contact, review the risks of intimate contact with a new partner, and share contact details with any new partners to allow for follow-up. if needed at the moment. These individual steps will reduce the risk of infection and reduce the spread until sufficient vaccine supplies are available to receive one dose of Orthopox vaccine.

It is imperative that public health officials, members of the health care provider community, and others in our broader community support members of the LGBTQ community and recognize that they currently face the greatest risks of this disease. While men who have sex with men are at greatest risk today, a person’s sexuality and sexual orientation are not the means of transmission. Anyone who has direct contact with an infected person, especially skin-to-skin contact, can contract the disease.

Using the same care and compassion that Sonoma County residents have shown to populations disproportionately affected by the COVID pandemic, we will work together to address the monkey outbreak and continue to be a healthy, safe and vibrant community.

Tina Rivera, Director of the Department of Health Services Gabriel Kaplan, Director of the Division of Public Health Dr. Sundari Mase, Chief of Health Dr. Kismet Baldwin, Deputy Director of Public Health

How to protect yourself from monkeypox:

If you have symptoms, especially a rash consistent with a monkey or if you have been in contact with someone diagnosed with a monkey:

If you don’t have a provider, or are having trouble making an appointment, you can see a Sonoma County community clinic.

More information about monkeypox can be found here:

# # # Media Contact: Matt Brown, Communications Specialist (707) 565-3040 575 Administration Drive, Suite 104A Santa Rosa, CA 95403

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