Sacramento County declared monkeypox a local public health emergency Tuesday afternoon amid a rise in cases. The emergency declaration allows the county to access funding and be more proactive in its response to the outbreak.
Public health officials say the declaration is not an indicator of a significantly increased risk to residents. The county’s board of supervisors voted 4-1 in favor of the declaration, with District 4 supervisor Sue Frost the “no” vote.
Sacramento County’s declaration comes days after the state announced a state of emergency in response to the outbreak Aug. 1.
The county was notified of its first monkeypox case on May 21. As of Tuesday, the county reports 80 monkeypox cases.
“We are getting more and more cases of individuals with more disseminated lesions all over their body and some of them do experience very severe pain,” said Dr. Olivia Kasirye, the county’s public health officer.
She added that people in their 30s were the majority of the cases, at 42.5%. The second largest group of infected people are in their 20s, comprising 22.3% of cases.
At a county Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, Kasirye said the county’s main challenges in responding to the outbreak are limited testing, treatment and vaccine supply, the period of isolation after contracting the virus and educating the community about risks.
“Some patients have difficulty accessing testing through outpatient clinics or may end up having long waits in emergency departments,” she said. “Although we have a clinic that is able to do testing, we have limited slots available.”
Because of the limited vaccine supply, the county has been prioritizing direct contacts of infected individuals. Since the majority of confirmed cases have been reported among gay and bisexual men, the county has also been focusing its vaccination efforts on that population and whether they meet certain criteria.
Since patients are infectious until a layer of new skin has grown over their rash or lesions — which can take between two to four weeks — Kasirye said the isolation period has ended up being a “financial hardship” for a lot of patients.
“If we tell somebody to be off work two to four weeks, how are they going to eat?” she asked. “Some of them don’t even have transportation.”
She said she hopes the emergency declaration will set into motion a partnership with the county’s Department of Human Assistance to provide housing vouchers and financial support for those who need to isolate.
In addition to the vaccine, there is a treatment for monkeypox — a two-week series of pills known as TPOXX. But it is currently only being offered at UC Davis Medical Center and Kaiser Permanente hospitals.
The county has partnered with the Sacramento LGBT Center to host walk-in vaccine clinics and help with underscoring that “monkeypox can affect anybody,” as Kasirye said at the meeting.
Click here for more information about monkeypox signs and symptoms and where you can get a vaccine in Sacramento County.
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