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First case of Monkeypox identified in SLO County resident 


Individual is recovering in isolation; risk to the general public remains low according to public health department

–The first case of monkeypox has been identified in a San Luis Obispo County resident, following an uptick in cases globally and in California. The risk to the general public from this virus remains low, as the virus is usually spread through prolonged, close physical contact.

The individual, who is believed to have contracted the virus while traveling in another part of California, is recovering in isolation and is in good condition. The San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department is in communication with the individual’s close contacts and is providing vaccines to those who have been exposed to the virus. The vaccine is effective at preventing infection during the period after an individual is exposed to the virus but before symptoms develop.

The case was diagnosed when the individual experienced symptoms and promptly sought care. “This case of monkeypox was diagnosed thanks to the prompt action of the individual and their health care provider,” said Dr. Penny Borenstein, County Health Officer. “Monkeypox spreads through prolonged, close physical contact with someone who has symptoms or with contaminated materials like clothes or bedding. It does not spread easily through the air or through brief contact like walking by someone on the street. Anyone who has an unusual rash and is concerned about monkeypox should contact their healthcare provider for an evaluation.”

Monkeypox is a disease caused by the monkeypox virus, a relative of the smallpox virus. Monkeypox often causes flu-like symptoms (such as chills, fever, and swollen lymph nodes) followed by a rash or sores, which can look like pimples, blisters, or an ingrown hair. It spreads primarily through close, often skin-to-skin contact with people who have monkeypox symptoms such as rash and sores or, less commonly, with unwashed materials used by someone with monkeypox symptoms. Since May 2022, there has been an uptick in cases in parts of the world where monkeypox does not usually occur, including here in California.

Anyone who has an unusual rash (with or without flu-like symptoms) and is concerned about monkeypox should contact their healthcare provider for an evaluation and follow-up care. This is especially important if they may have had close personal contact with someone who had a rash, or attended a large event with lots of close contact. Your healthcare provider can conduct a risk assessment for monkeypox and coordinate testing and treatment if needed.
A vaccine can provide protection against monkeypox, but vaccine supply is currently very limited.

The public health department has received a very small allocation of the JYNNEOS vaccine, which provides protection against monkeypox and smallpox. This small allocation of vaccines reflects an extremely limited national supply. It is given as a series of two doses, at least four weeks apart. In accordance with state and national guidance, SLO County’s initial small allocation of vaccines is currently prioritized for people who have had close contact with someone who tested positive for monkeypox, and for laboratory workers who regularly handle the virus.

“We unfortunately have an extremely limited vaccine supply and must reserve it for those at the most severe risk following contact with someone who has monkeypox,” said Dr. Borenstein. “We hope vaccine supply will increase and will communicate directly with the public when it does. In the meantime, it’s important to remember that risk to the general public remains very low and there are steps you can take to protect yourself from monkeypox.”

Until vaccine access expands, you can take steps to protect yourself from monkeypox:

• Talk with your close contacts, including sexual partners, about any recent illness and be aware of new or unexplained sores or rashes on your body or your partner’s body.
• Avoid close, intimate, skin-to-skin contact with people who have monkeypox symptoms like rashes or sores.
• Avoid contact with unwashed items or fabrics (bedding, towels, clothing, dishes) used by someone who has monkeypox symptoms like rashes or sores.
• Wash your hands thoroughly and often.
• If you are caring for someone who has monkeypox and is experiencing symptoms, use appropriate personal protective equipment (like a mask, gown, eye protection, and gloves).

For more information about monkeypox and to sign up to receive updates (including vaccine updates), visit Public health phone assistance is available at (805) 781-5500 Monday – Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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