The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and community health providers are teaming up to vaccinate more people against monkeypox.
Santa Barbara County has five confirmed cases, four pending tests and has administered 35 vaccine doses to those exposed to the virus, county public health officer Dr. Henning Ansorg told the oversight board on Tuesday.
“We constantly pester the state to give us more vaccines, and I don’t want to see the vaccine doses in the freezer. I want to see them in people’s bodies.
The county, the Pacific Pride Foundation, Planned Parenthood and other providers are in a “coordinated and concerted effort to vaccinate as many as possible within the next 10 days,” he said.
The monkeypox virus is “much less dangerous than smallpox, but still a very uncomfortable disease if you have to go through it,” Ansorg said.
It spreads through prolonged skin-to-skin contact or through droplets from close face-to-face contact.
“It’s much less contagious than COVID or smallpox for that matter,” he said.
Click here to access the Department of Public Health’s monkeypox information page.
Vaccination and treatment for severe cases are available but limited, Ansorg said on Tuesday.
“Vaccination is really the best protection for people” who have been exposed to someone with monkeypox, he said.
The Jynneos vaccine and tecovirimat (TPOXX) treatment come from federal government stockpiles and are not widely available, Ansorg added.
TPOXX is an “investigational use drug because it is approved for smallpox and not MPox,” he said.
The county received 220 vaccine doses for high-risk groups and post-exposure cases, and 10 treatments for patients with severe illness, he said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently granted emergency use authorization to administer the vaccine with one-fifth of the doses, which would allow the county to vaccinate people on a larger scale, Ansorg said.
The county received its first shipment of 40 vaccine doses earlier this month.
County Supervisor Joan Hartmann asked if those vaccinated against smallpox were protected against monkeypox, and Ansorg said yes.
The United States stopped general smallpox vaccination in 1972, 50 years ago, he said.
“So anyone born in the late 1960s, say, even has at least partial immunity to this MPox virus through their smallpox vaccination,” Ansorg said.
About 75% of cases in the United States are in people under the age of 45, he added.
Anyone with symptoms is urged to avoid close physical contact with others and to get tested.
Symptoms may include a fever; a headache; muscle aches and back pain; swollen lymph nodes; chills; exhaustion; a sore throat, stuffy nose, or cough; and a rash which may look like pimples or blisters and which appears on the face, inside the mouth and on other parts of the body such as the hands, feet, chest, genitals or the anus.
To avoid getting infected, Ansorg suggested avoiding intimate contact with people with skin lesions, limiting the number of intimate partners, and disclosing to partners that you have symptoms or skin lesions yourself.
California has reported 1,733 cases and 36 hospitalizations due to monkeypox.
The Pacific Pride Foundation is hosting a virtual town hall at 7 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the local monkeypox response and available resources.
Speakers include health professionals from Public Health, Pacific Pride Foundation, Planned Parenthood, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, UCSB Student Health and Cottage Health. Interpretation in Spanish and Mixtec will be provided.
Register for the Zoom meeting at bit.ly/8mW4hd.
Anyone can be infected with the monkeypox virus, but many of the recent cases have been in people identifying as men who have sex with men, according to the California Department of Public Health.
It’s important to avoid stigma when talking about the virus and the LGBTQ+ community, and focus awareness and resources on at-risk groups, health officials say.
Click here for information on monkeypox and resources from the Pacific Pride Foundation.
Scroll down to read Public Health’s presentation on monkeypox at Tuesday’s County Board of Supervisors meeting.
Updated Monkeypox Response for Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors