FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Alison Hawkes, Director of Communications, DPH.Press@sfdph.org
San Francisco, CA - As the summer season begins with increased travel and major events and gatherings, Bay Area Health Officials urge people to protect themselves against the monkeypox virus, which spreads through prolonged skin-to-skin contact and bodily fluids, such as through crowded settings or sexual contact.
The alert from nine health jurisdictions comes as cases – which appear on individuals as distinctive rashes and sores that can look like blisters or pimples – continue to emerge in the Bay Area, the nation and the globe. Monkeypox is not new, but this is the first time this virus has spread in so many countries at once.
Most cases of monkeypox resolve on their own, although it can be serious. The illness often begins with flu-like symptoms before the emergence of a rash and may last for 2 to 4 weeks. A post-exposure vaccination is available through healthcare providers.
Unlike COVID-19 which spreads easily through the air, the risk of monkeypox to the general public is currently low unless they engage in higher-risk behaviors. Having sex with multiple sex partners can increase a person’s risk of becoming infected when monkeypox is spreading in the community. Be aware of crowded, indoor spaces where people have close skin-to-skin contact, sex, kissing, and close breathing. The virus can also be spread through shared clothing or bedding.
“We are at a critical stage in this disease when we might have the chance to contain an outbreak if we act quickly and make people aware of the risks and how to protect themselves. Monkeypox can be preventable,” said Acting San Francisco Health Officer, Dr. Naveena Bobba. “We know that people are excited to celebrate this summer after two years of a pandemic, and we encourage them to do so safely by knowing how to protect themselves and seeing a doctor as soon as possible if they have symptoms.”
Many of the cases currently appearing are within networks of self-identified gay and bisexual men, trans people, and men who have sex with men. People in these networks are currently at higher risk, though people of any sexual orientation or gender identity can become infected and spread monkeypox. Public awareness is important as the disease could spread within potentially larger groups or networks of people.
Bay Area Health Officials urge the media, government officials, and the community at-large to avoid stigmatizing a particular group or person for monkeypox, but rather support those at highest risk and keep others from becoming complacent.
There are other contagious illnesses that can cause rash or skin lesions. For example, syphilis and herpes are much more common than monkeypox, can look similar, and should be treated too.
How to protect yourself:
- Consider covering exposed skin in dense, indoor crowds
- Don’t share bedding or clothing with others when possible
- Before having close, physical contact with others, talk to your partners about their health and any recent rashes or sores
- Stay aware if traveling to countries where there are outbreaks
- How to protect others:
If you have symptoms particularly a rash consistent with monkeypox, or if you have been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed with monkeypox:
Stay home if you are feeling sick
- Contact a health care provider as soon as possible for an evaluation
- Avoid skin-to-skin, or close contact with others, including sexual contact, until a medical evaluation has been completed
- Inform sex partners about any symptoms you are experiencing
- Cover the rash with clean, dry, loose-fitting clothing
- Wear a well-fitted mask
- If you are contacted by public health officials, answer their confidential questions to help protect others who may have been exposed
How to get help:
If you do not have a provider, or have difficulty scheduling an appointment, you can be seen at SF City Clinic at 7th Street, San Francisco (628-217-6600) or at Strut located at 470 Castro Street (415-581-1600).
San Francisco has identified ten (10) cases of monkeypox to date but anticipates more cases of monkeypox could occur. The San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) is monitoring updates and guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on the evolving situation and has systems in place to receive reports of suspected cases and reach out to individuals and their close contacts. SFDPH has procured a limited supply of the Jynneos vaccine for preventative use in people who are identified as close contacts.
More information about monkeypox can be found here:
- San Francisco guidance, updates and outreach materials: sf.gov/monkeypox
- Q&A from CDPH: cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Monkeypox-Questions-and-Answers.aspx
- Information on monkeypox from the CDC: cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/response/2022/index.html
- Social gatherings and safer sex from the CDC:cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/specific-settings/social-gatherings.html
Department of Public Health Communications
City and County of San Francisco