Los Angeles County officials have reported limited local transmission of monkeypox, with some recent cases involving people who attended large events here and infected people who haven’t traveled out of state.
“There’s been some what we call ‘community transmission.’ That is, it’s not from travelers or people who went elsewhere and contracted monkeypox somewhere else. It’s actually they got monkeypox here in LA County, because it was transmitted from someone else here in LA County who had monkeypox,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said at this week’s Board of Supervisors meeting.
Overall, there were 30 presumptive or confirmed monkeypox cases in LA County as of Thursday. No one in the county had been hospitalized or died from the disease as of last week.
Meanwhile, the geographic impact of the monkeypox outbreak continues to expand.
Orange County reported its first presumptive case Wednesday. Public health officials in Riverside and Santa Clara counties did likewise last week.
Here’s what you need to know about the disease and its spread:
Where is monkeypox spreading in LA County?
“The majority of people who have been diagnosed here in LA County with monkeypox have been folks who attended two very big parties,” Ferrer said this week. “So we’ve done a lot of very specific outreach to the attendees at these events.”
Among humans, monkeypox can be transmitted through sustained skin-to-skin contact with someone who has an active rash. In some cases in the current outbreak, during the early stages of illness, the rash has been found in the genital area and in or around the anus.
Health officials have observed that some recent cases have been among men who have sex with men.
But officials have emphasized that anyone can get or transmit monkeypox, including family and friends caring for those who are ill. The virus also can be transmitted through shared bedding and clothing. It’s also possible it can be spread through kissing and breathing at very close range.
The primary mode of transmission is through virus-filled lesions on the skin, which can be filled with infectious pus. It’s plausible that a person can be contagious without lesions on the skin, such as if a lesion is in their throat or mouth, and they can breathe out the virus to people.
Monkeypox is nowhere near as contagious as the coronavirus and measles, which can hang in stagnant air in a room for more than an hour.
What can be done if you’ve been exposed to monkeypox?
Ferrer said LA County health officials are arranging opportunities for people exposed to the monkeypox virus to get vaccinated against the disease in hopes of avoiding infection.
Supplies of monkeypox vaccines are limited. County health officials are offering the Jynneos vaccine to reach people at higher risk.
What are authorities doing to widen access to the vaccine?
The Biden administration on Tuesday said federal officials are aiming to “expand vaccination for individuals at risk and make testing more convenient for healthcare providers and patients across the country.”
The US Department of Health and Human Services has already deployed more than 9,000 doses of vaccine; the administration said Tuesday it will allocate “296,000 doses over the coming weeks, 56,000 of which will be allocated immediately.”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week “began shipping tests to five commercial laboratory companies, including some of the nation’s largest reference laboratories, to further increase monkeypox testing capacity and access,” the administration said.
What does the monkeypox rash look like in the current outbreak?
A freelance video producer and editor, Matt Ford, wrote a story published on BuzzFeed outlining his exposure and infection with monkeypox, and included photos of the rash. He said a friend tested positive for the monkeypox and contacted him on June 17 to let him know he might’ve been exposed through skin-to-skin contact.
“Sure enough, I checked myself for spots and noticed a couple of lesions in the underwear zone,” Ford wrote. “The next day, I began to have intense flu-like symptoms: a fever, full-body chills, night sweats, a cough, a sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes. This would last about a week.”
Ford wrote that he went to the doctor on June 20, got tested and the results were sent to the LA County Department of Public Health. The lesions “in the underwear zone were becoming more intense and quite painful.” Lesions spread to the face and elsewhere on his body, becoming so painful that he was prescribed painkillers.