Bay Area officials from nine health jurisdictions are cautioning community members to protect themselves against the monkeypox virus as cases continue to occur throughout the local region and beyond, particularly amid summer traveling and gatherings. The virus, which appears as rashes and sores that resemble blisters or pimples, spreads through extended skin-to-skin contact and bodily fluids, i.e., via crowds or sexual contact.
As of this writing, no cases of monkeypox have been identified in San Mateo County, however, several cases have been confirmed in neighboring counties.
Community members engaging in high-risk behaviors—such as having sex with numerous partners, frequenting crowded spaces where close skin-to-skin contact, sex, kissing and close breathing occurs and sharing clothing or bedding while the virus is spreading locally—are more prone to contract it. Otherwise, the risk to the general public is low, health officials say.
“Even with the low public risk of monkeypox, it’s important to be aware of the signs of infection,” said Dr. Scott Morrow, San Mateo County Health Officer. “Anyone experiencing symptoms should stay home and contact their health care provider right away.”
While currently, many monkeypox cases presently appearing are among communities self-identified as gay and bisexual men, trans people and men who have sex with men, health officials caution against stigmatizing certain groups of people re: the virus and emphasize that “people of any sexual orientation or gender identity can become infected” and spread it.
Community members can protect themselves against monkeypox by covering their exposed skin in large indoor crowds; not sharing bedding or clothing with others if possible; talking to partners about possible sores prior to having close, physical contact; and being aware of outbreaks in places you’re visiting.
Those exhibiting possible symptoms or who have been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with monkeypox should remain home when feeling sick; be evaluated ASAP by a health care provider; avoid skin-to-skin, or close contact with others, including sexual contact, until receiving a medical evaluation; notify sex partners about any symptoms; cover the rash with clean, dry, loose-fitting clothing; wear a well-fitted mask; and—if contacted by public health officials—should answer their confidential questions to help protect others possibly exposed.
For more info about monkeypox, visit: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) [cdc.gov]; California Department of Public Health (CDPH) [cdph.ca.gov]; and Social gatherings and safer sex from the CDC [cdc.gov].