The San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) announced today that following a recent uptick in cases globally and in the United States, the first probable case of monkeypox has been identified in an SF resident through testing at a California Department of Public Health laboratory. The risk to the general population from this virus is believed to be low as the known cause of spread is prolonged contact and bodily fluids. Having close physical contact, including sex, with multiple people can put a person at higher risk for monkeypox.
The individual, who traveled to a location with an outbreak in cases, is in isolation and in good condition. The individual has reported no close contacts in SF during the time period where they could have spread the infection to others. Initial testing was completed at a state lab on Friday, and SFDPH is awaiting confirmation of those test results from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“San Francisco is prepared for this case and others, should more occur. We want to emphasize that this is not a disease that spreads easily through the air like COVID-19, however we do want people who might have been exposed to watch out for symptoms and to see a medical provider immediately if they develop symptoms for an evaluation,” said Health Officer, Dr. Susan Philip. “While most cases resolve on their own, monkeypox can be serious in rare cases and we want to prevent further spread in the community.”
There is still more to learn about the conditions in which monkeypox is spreading, and people can expect that public health guidance will evolve accordingly. It is currently understood that monkeypox can spread through activities that include intimate sexual contact, kissing, breathing at very close range, or sharing bedding and clothing. It appears as a distinctive rash or sores on the skin anywhere on the body, including in the genital area. It often begins as flu-like symptoms.
While we are seeing a cluster of cases appearing nationally and internationally, monkeypox remains rare, and there are other contagious illnesses that can cause rash or skin lesions. For example, syphilis and herpes are much more common than monkeypox, can appear similar, and should be treated too.
Individuals who may have been exposed to monkeypox, or who have symptoms, should immediately contact their health care provider for evaluation and guidance. Clinicians should report suspected monkeypox cases to SFDPH Communicable Disease Control.
SFDPH anticipates that more cases of monkeypox could occur in SF. SFDPH is monitoring updates and guidance from the CDC and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on the evolving situation. SFDPH systems are in place to receive reports of suspected cases from health care providers; identify and reach out to any individuals who have been in contact with cases during their infectious period; and ensure that clinicians remain well informed about testing, infection control and management of monkeypox as the situation develops. CDPH has procured the Jynneos vaccine to distribute to counties for preventative use in people who are identified as close contacts.
Most of the recent cases of monkeypox globally are among individuals who self-identify as gay men or men who have sex with men, which may put individuals in this community at higher risk of infection. However, anyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, can become infected with and spread monkeypox.
SF has a rich history of elevating, celebrating, and advocating for the lives of the LGBTQ+ community. SFDPH urges media outlets, government officials, and the community at-large to respond with a rights-based, evidence-based approach that avoids stigma.
How to protect yourself:
- Consider wearing a well-fitted mask and covering exposed skin in dense, indoor crowds
- Don’t share bedding, clothing, and food or drink with others
- Talk to close physical contacts about their general health like recent rashes or sores
- Stay aware if traveling to countries where there are outbreaks
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:
- Cover the area of the rash with clean, dry, loose-fitting clothing
- Wear a well-fitted mask
- Avoid skin-to-skin, or close contact with others, including sexual contact, until a medical evaluation has been completed
- Contact a health care provider as soon as possible for an evaluation
- Assist public health officials to track others who may have been exposed
- Inform sex partners of symptoms
How to get help if you don’t have a doctor:
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 470 Castro Street (415-581-1600).
Additional information about monkeypox can be found at: SF.GOV/monkeypox and at www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/clinicians/index.html.
Countries where monkeypox clusters have occurred: wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/alert/monkeypox