Monkeypox, a type of Orthopoxvirus, is currently on the rise in San Francisco. The virus has been declared a public health emergency on international, national, and local levels during the past few weeks, with Mayor Breed announcing a local emergency declaration for San Francisco on July 28.
These official declarations allow health departments to more effectively mobilize and allocate their resources towards fighting the disease. The SF Department of Public Health (SFDPH) continues to issue monkeypox vaccines to the extent that they are able, but supply limitations mean having to prioritize the most at-risk groups, which are currently among the LGBTQ+ community. SFDPH has received 12,000 vaccines to date from the federal stockpile despite initially requesting 35,000; however, San Francisco is expected to receive a second allotment of 10,700 doses at an unspecified date in the future.
“San Francisco is an epicenter for the country. Thirty percent of all cases in California are in San Francisco,” said San Francisco Public Health Officer Dr. Susan Philip of the local emergency declaration. “We have always been on the forefront of advocacy and action for LGBTQ+ health and I’m issuing this declaration to reaffirm our commitment to the wellbeing of these communities and to allow us to move more quickly to obtain and distribute the resources needed to help those disproportionately impacted.”
Here are some common questions about monkeypox in San Francisco, answered with information from the SF.gov,
Who can get monkeypox?
Anyone can get or spread monkeypox. Though as of now the virus is mostly spreading in communities of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM), it is important to remember that anyone is susceptible.
How does monkeypox spread?
Monkeypox spreads through close bodily contact with an infected person — this includes sex, kissing, breathing at close range, and sharing bedding or clothing.
The virus can be spread to others from the onset of symptoms until all scabs have fallen off and new skin has covered the spots. This can take 2-4 weeks.
What symptoms should I look out for?
Most cases begin with flu-like symptoms accompanied by a rash or sores resembling pimples or blisters. The sores can occur anywhere on the body, especially in the genital area, and generally begin as flat red spots that become painful fluid-filled bumps. Additional symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches and backache, swollen lymph nodes, chills, and exhaustion.
Some people never get a rash, or only experience symptoms such as a fever or muscle aches. Symptoms can appear one after the other, but generally begin within 2 weeks of exposure to the virus.
What should I do if I am experiencing symptoms?
If you have symptoms, you should speak with your healthcare provider about getting tested (which involves swabbing the rash/sore). If you do not have a healthcare provider, you can go to SF City Clinic or Strut, or call 311 for help.
While you are awaiting test results, you should self-isolate and advise people you’ve had sex or close contact with to get tested. Cover the rash or sores with clean, dry, loose-fitting clothing and wear a well-fitted mask.
How do I get a vaccine for monkeypox?
At this moment in time, SFDPH is prioritizing the first dose of Jynneos vaccine for people who live and work in San Francisco that meet the following requirements:
- Gay, bisexual, and other men or trans people who have sex with men, who have had more than 1 sexual partner in the past 14 days
- Sex workers of any sexual orientation or gender identity
- Persons who have had close contact within the past 14 days with someone with suspected or confirmed monkeypox
- Persons who had close contact with others at a venue or event or within a social group in the past 14 days where a suspected or confirmed monkeypox case was identified. This includes persons who received notice from a venue or event of a potential exposure within the past 14 days
- Laboratory workers who routinely perform monkeypox virus testing
- Clinicians who have had a high-risk occupational exposure (e.g., examined monkeypox lesions or collected monkeypox specimens without using recommended personal protective equipment)
Due to vaccine shortages, you must make an appointment to receive one at the following health centers:
- Adult Immunization and Travel Clinic (AITC) patients: call 415-554-2625
- Strut patients: call 415-581-1600
- Kaiser-Permanente patients: call 415-833-9999
- SF Health Network patients: call your provider or health center directly
- UCSF patients and non-patients: call 415-502-3566
As of August 3, the Zuckerberg SF General Learning Center (ZSFG Clinic) has closed walk-ins due to low vaccine supply.
How can I prevent getting monkeypox?
The CDC recommends the following preventative measures:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face and after you use the bathroom
- Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox
- Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used (sharing eating utensils or cups, handling bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox)
- Practice safe sex (see the full list of ways to do so here), and avoid having sex if you or your partner has a new unexplained rash or has been feeling sick
- Limiting your number of sex partners may reduce the possibility of exposure. Having multiple or anonymous sex partners may increase your chances of exposure to monkeypox.
How many cases are in San Francisco?
There are 424 probable and confirmed cases of monkeypox in San Francisco as of August 3, and 1,135 cases in California as of August 2. You can get the latest case numbers here.
Where can I get more information?
Find more detailed information at SF.gov, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) website, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
We will update this article with more information as it becomes available.
Featured image: Tatiana Buyzmakova on Shutterstock