Sonoma County Department of Health Services issues letter to community to increase awareness about monkeypox
Dear Sonoma County residents,
We are facing a public health emergency. On August 1, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency to combat the spread of monkeypox. Three days later, the administration of President Joe Biden declared a public health emergency at the federal level as well. The emergency declarations will help ensure we obtain the critical resources needed to combat the spread of this virus. While this outbreak is very different from the coronavirus pandemic, we have learned many lessons over the past two years to help us battle the spread of infectious diseases.
To date, we have learned of 17 cases of confirmed monkeypox among Sonoma County residents. This represents an increase from the county’s numbers last week and is suggestive of accelerating spread. Despite this jump, monkeypox continues to pose a low risk to the vast majority of Sonoma County residents.
Although it is a viral infection, monkeypox does not behave or transmit like COVID-19. Monkeypox is less contagious than COVID-19 and is largely spread by intimate contact, including kissing, hugging and sexual activity, between an infected or contagious individual and another person.
We want to reiterate that monkeypox can affect anyone. Currently, the vast majority of cases are in the social network of self-identified men who have sex with men, and they need the most support.
Public health officials at all levels are working to distribute the Jynneos vaccine to limit the spread from infectious individuals to others. Unfortunately, manufacturers have not produced vaccine supplies sufficient to meet the demand.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, California Department of Public Health, and Sonoma County Department of Health Services are distributing existing supplies and prioritizing distribution to those who have been exposed to someone with monkeypox or have a higher risk of being exposed to the virus. Again, most individuals in the general population are at low risk of exposure and infection.
To date, Sonoma County has received 820 doses of the vaccine. The doses have been distributed to all of the major health systems and the Federally Qualified Health Centers as well as Santa Rosa Junior College, Sonoma County Indian Health Services Program and the Lazy Bear event in Guerneville. Since supplies of the vaccine remain insufficient to meet the needs of the County, we also need to focus on preventing and reducing the risk of acquiring and transmitting the virus. Combining both prevention, vaccination and treatment will give us the best chance of slowing the spread of the illness.
Consistent with World Health Organization guidance, we recommend individuals who face the greatest risk consider limiting their number of intimate, skin to skin contacts, reconsider the risks of intimate contact with a new partner, and exchange contact details with any new partners to allow follow up if needed for the time being. These individual steps will lower their risk of infection and reduce the spread until sufficient vaccine supply is available to receive a dose of the Orthopox vaccine.
It is critical that public health officials, members of the health care provider community and others in our broader community support members of the LGBTQ community and recognize that they are facing the greatest risks of this disease at this time. While men who have sex with men currently face the greatest risk, a person’s sexuality and sexual orientation is not the route of transmission. Anyone who has direct contact, especially skin to skin contact, with an infected person can contract the disease.
Using the same care and compassion that Sonoma County residents displayed for populations disproportionately affected during the COVID pandemic, we will work together to combat the monkeypox outbreak and continue to have a healthy, safe and vibrant community.
Tina Rivera, Director Department of Health Services
Gabriel Kaplan, Director Public Health Division
Dr. Sundari Mase, Health Officer
Dr. Kismet Baldwin, Deputy Public Health Officer
How to protect yourself from monkeypox:
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has symptoms
- Avoid share bedding, towels or clothing with others who have symptoms
- Before having close, physical contact with others, talk to your partners about their health and any recent rashes or sores
- Consider limiting the number of intimate skin-to-skin encounters or events with large numbers of people where close skin to skin contact can occur
- 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
- To the best of your ability, know how to contact your intimate partners so they can receive post exposure prophylaxis
- 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 a community clinic in Sonoma County.
More information about monkeypox can be found here: