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Riverside County Public Health declares public health emergency as monkeypox cases grow

The Desert Sun (Palm Springs) logo The Desert Sun (Palm Springs) 8/9/2022 Ema Sasic, Palm Springs Desert Sun
Jonathan Parducho, a pharmacist, removes a tray of vials of of the Jynneos vaccine for monkeypox from a box containing 20 doses, in the vaccine hub at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, July 29, 2022, in San Francisco. © Lea Suzuki, San Francisco Chronicle via AP Jonathan Parducho, a pharmacist, removes a tray of vials of of the Jynneos vaccine for monkeypox from a box containing 20 doses, in the vaccine hub at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, July 29, 2022, in San Francisco.

Riverside County Public Health Officer Dr. Geoffrey Leung on Monday proclaimed a public health emergency to combat monkeypox, a move that health officials say will focus attention on the virus that has grown throughout the county. 

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors has seven days to ratify the action, according to a news release. The move comes after California, the federal government and a handful of cities and counties in California declared the virus a public health emergency.

“We have seen the devastating physical effects of monkeypox on those who have been infected, as well as the emotional toll on partners, family and loved ones,” Leung said in a statement. “Now is the time for Public Health, our community partners and local leadership to reinforce our commitment to work together to slow and eventually stop the spread of this virus.”

There have been 70 confirmed and probable monkeypox cases reported in Riverside County, as of Tuesday. The county's public health department states there have been a handful of patients who have been briefly hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported from the virus locally. 

Riverside County Public Health reported another 11 confirmed or probable monkeypox cases in the county, 10 of which are in the Coachella Valley, on Tuesday. County spokesperson Jose Arballo Jr. said the 11 cases are among men between the ages of 20 and 70. One of those cases is from the western portion of Riverside County. 

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by the monkeypox virus. People usually become infected through close contact with skin lesions or bodily fluids of infected animals or humans (alive or dead), including droplets. The virus can also be spread through sexual contact, but it is not classified as a sexually transmitted infection.

Monkeypox can infect anyone. But during the current U.S. outbreak, it has disproportionately affected men who have sex with men, a group that includes people who identify as gay, bisexual, transgender and nonbinary.

Symptoms can occur five to 21 days after exposure, and include fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, rash and lesions often in the genital and perianal region. Illness typically lasts for two to four weeks.

Local health officials hope the proclamation will show the community that the department views monkeypox as a threat to all county residents. Leung said the move could also help bring in more vaccines to the area, which have been in limited supply. 

Riverside County Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Chevinsky said in a monkeypox update video released Monday that an additional 1,870 Jynneos vaccine doses are coming to the county. Doses will be distributed among Borrego Health, DAP Health, Desert Oasis Healthcare, Eisenhower Health, Kaiser Permanente and Riverside University Health System's Early Intervention Program. 

As of Aug. 2, Riverside County had received 4,634 Jynneos vaccine doses and distributed 3,514, according to the California Department of Public Health.

The Jynneos vaccine is licensed for adults ages 18 and older. It is a two-dose vaccine series administered in the upper arm at least four weeks apart. The New York Times reported that the Biden administration is preparing to move forward with a plan that would allow health care providers to administer one-fifth of the vaccine into skin, rather than a full dose into underlying fat, in an attempt to stretch out limited supplies. 

Riverside County is also working with community partners to provide Tecovirimat (TPOXX) for patients who are at higher risk of severe disease from monkeypox. The public health department states most patients have not required TPOXX, and symptoms have resolved on their own with symptom management strategies.

Ema Sasic covers entertainment and health in the Coachella Valley. Reach her at ema.sasic@desertsun.com or on Twitter @ema_sasic.

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Riverside County Public Health declares public health emergency as monkeypox cases grow

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